Interview: Life in La La Land with Erica Eden

ERICA Eden is a promising young actor and creative based out of Los Angeles, California. Close-up Culture were fortunate to hear from Erica on a range of topics including her advice for actors moving to L.A., the best ways to harness creativity and the importance of staying motivated.

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Q: Can you tell us about your background and where you got your passion for performing?

A: I WAS born and raised in Palm Springs, California, which is an extremely artsy town. I was, and still am, fortunate to have a mother who supports both the arts and my dreams to be an actress and creative.

I got my passion for performing at a young age; I was a “pageant baby” so I practically grew up on the stage. At the age of 3, I started dancing, and recitals were like Christmas for me – I loved dancing my little tush off. Then, at the age of 6, I started performing on local main stage theaters.

What truly ignited my passion for performing was a moment I will never forget. I remember being really young, on stage for my first live, main stage performance in front of a huge crowd. All of the other children were nervous but I had never felt more at ease – it was in that moment that I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The rest is history.

Q: Your Instagram page is full of wisdom. What would your advice be to someone starting out in L.A.?

A: FIRST off, welcome to Los Angeles! You made the first step of moving here, so I applaud you. Los Angeles is the most magical place, but also the most intimidating. You need to mentally prepare yourself if you want a career in acting. If you want to succeed in this business, you are going to have to want it more than anyone, and prove it – but do not be desperate about it either. Casting Directors can smell desperation a mile away. Confusing, right? Well not really, it is quite simple actually.

Attitude is everything. No one wants to work with someone who has a bad attitude. Generally, being on set means that you have a 12+ day ahead of you, and no one wants to work with a sourpuss for 12+ hours. When you get on set (be early) be eager and willing to help in any way you can. Be happy and be grateful that you are given the opportunity to be on set – no matter how big or small the production is. Remember: everyone is replaceable in this business (it is the harsh truth), so put your best foot forward with that “can do” attitude and people will surely notice.

Focus on building a good reputation. The rumors are true, this business is about who you know, so be rememberable. And the best way to be remembered is to be down to earth, easy to work with, and to be a positive person people will want to be around. If you do that, I promise you that you will go far.

That is why I talk about staying motivated and positive on my Instagram so much. #motivationmondays are my jam because it gets me genuinely pumped for the week and has me in the best mood. You will get a lot more bees with honey than vinegar, so be the most raw and authentic, sweetest honey you can be.

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Q: What has been the biggest hurdles to you as a young creative and how have you overcome them?

A: THE biggest hurdles I have had to overcome while living in Los Angeles had to do with not letting myself get in the way of my own success. I have felt discouraged at times, and I felt like I needed to focus on money before I could focus on my dreams – which is so false it hurts to think about.

I was focusing on the wrong things, like how everyone seemed to have free time but me, and that was a negative mindset I had to eradicate immediately. I needed to see the positives, and I needed to accept that everyone is on a different path.

Great things take time, and you cannot expect things to happen overnight. If you are not financially stable, then you need to take that factor into account as well, but that does not mean you cannot work and pursue your dreams at the same time.

When moving to Los Angeles, you will find that a lot of people are “self-employed”, which can be interpreted in many different ways, yet they all have one thing in common: they are in charge of planning their own daily schedule. Unless you have a lot of money saved up or financial support from your parents, do not expect to be able to be in charge of your own schedule 100%, or to be making money purely from acting so soon. But do not think that getting some sort of a day job will halt your acting career because perseverance is everything; if you really want something, you will not let anything stop you until you achieve your goals.

In fact, once I saw the light, I realized that there are many opportunities out there that can give you a more lenient schedule, which will allow you to find more time to pursue your dreams. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Q: We often hear about aspiring creatives who have to juggle their artistic goals with a survival job. What has your approach to this been?

A: Money should not be your number one stress factor. I am a firm believer that whatever you put into the universe will come right back to you. So, in this case, if you wake up each morning saying: “Money is not an issue. I will find a way to make money no matter what.” then you will indeed find a way to make it happen. And like I said previously, there are so many ways to make money nowadays – more than you may realize. Have you ever heard of being a Brand Ambassador? It is the perfect job for an actor.

There was a point in time when I would wake up every day with the most negative thoughts; the job I had at the time was paying so little while taking up so much of my time (plus, my rent was not cheap). The issue stemmed from the fact that I allowed myself to work a job that had me working so much, and took so much out of me, that I began to lose sight of why I moved to Los Angeles in the first place. Something has got to give.

One day I woke up and realized that I deserved better. So I started thinking more positive thoughts and said to myself every morning: “money is coming my way”, “I can do anything I set my mind to”, and “I am happy”. The minute I started doing that, things started to change. Within a month or two, I started working a ton of side gigs to pick up some extra money. Then, from that, I was offered a new job that paid me what I was worth and gave me the free time to let me live my life and pursue my dreams.

So the key to juggling your artistic goals begins with a positive attitude, good time management, and drive. And you cannot do this alone; you need a supportive group of friends encouraging you each step of the way. I would not be where I am today if it were not for the people I have met along the way. And with that positive attitude, you will make friends easily. So surely, the key to success is positivity.

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Q: You are clearly someone bursting with creativity. Can you tell us about your singing and painting talents?

A: OF course. Thank you so much. I have been painting and drawing since before I could walk. Yeah, every baby can pick up a crayon and write on the walls, but that is not what I am talking about. My mom would work with me every day to teach me all about shapes and colors – the art basics.

I started my first art class at the age of 3 and participated in numerous art shows as a kid, all the way to the present day. Art has always been therapeutic for me. If you want me to drop off of the face of the earth, give me a pencil and a piece of paper. You will not see or hear from me for hours.

Some people like to paint landscapes or creative designs, but I like to draw and paint people. I have always found it so fascinating that you can capture the essence of what a person is feeling, and the story they have to tell, just through their eyes. Perhaps that has to do with my love for acting and being fascinated with human behavior and emotion. I am so strange, I like to sit on the bench at my local park and just people watch. You should try it, it opens your eyes.

All art forms tie into each other at some point. For example, you cannot create a film without art (interior design, graphic design, costume design, etc.). You cannot put on a musical without music. Which is how I fell in love with singing and dancing – musical theater.

It started one summer at Theater Camp when my rehearsal group was preparing for our upcoming performance of the song “Seasons of Love” from the musical, Rent. We started rehearsing, and towards the end of the song, I built up the courage to belt out Joanne’s high notes. After an awkward pause, and an “Oh no, why did I just embarrass myself?” in my head, I ended up landing that solo part of the song. Sometimes it is the small moments in life that become big mile stones. From then on, I started singing a little more each day.

I still get a little nervous about singing in front of people, but I like to believe I give some pretty good concerts to the soap bottles in my shower. In all seriousness, I used to be really self-conscious about my singing. Over the years I have forced myself to sing in front of crowds, and to post my singing videos on social media, whether I wanted to or not.

To this day I still worry about whether people will like my music or not, but what I am beginning to realize is that it is not about what other people think, it is about making yourself genuinely happy. If singing makes me happy, and I am satisfied with the way I sound, then who cares what the rest of the world thinks? And that should apply to everything we do in our everyday lives. Live this life for yourself and nobody else.

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Q: What motivates you and how do you set about improving everyday?

A: Some days you will feel on top of the world, and then other days you will feel like hiding in a hole that you dug yourself. It is on those days you are feeling at your lowest that you need to remember, “It is just a bad day, not a bad life.”

What motivates me to improve everyday is my ultimate goal. I do not want to let myself down, so in order to ensure that does not happen, I need to stay on track. By doing so, I have laid out a self-written plan for myself. And lists. Lots of lists. Because in order to be terrific, you have to specific. Do not just say, “I want to be on a TV Show within the next year.” Instead, say something like, “I will land a guest starring role on Schitt’s Creek by summer 2019.”

On a side note, do not be afraid to use those emotions in your acting. The beauty of being an artist is that you can utilize those emotions to make something beautiful. If you are in pain, use that to your advantage and generate a beautiful dramatic monologue. If you are feeling happy, awesome! You will book a national commercial no problem. The point I am trying to make is that there is a positive to even the negatives. When being an artist, your life is your unfair advantage.

Swap out the “I want to” to “I will” because if you can truly believe it, you can achieve it. By specifying what show you would like to be on (I say Schitt’s Creek because it is one of my favorite shows) then that will motivate you to really hone in on the sitcom comedy style (for example), and to perhaps talk to your agent about what kind of roles you see yourself in so you can (hopefully) start auditioning for those types of roles. This will then pave your way to eventually achieving your ultimate goal.

The time frame aspect is great because it creates a sense of urgency. When there is no date set, then there is no sense of urgency. Instead, it can have you saying: “I am a little tired right now. Perhaps I can do it tomorrow.” Before you know it, days or even weeks have passed you by. Most of our ultimate goals contain some pretty big dreams, so start small and take everything step by step. It can be overwhelming to tackle it all at once, so break down your tasks into sections and go from there. You would not want to shove a whole four course meal into your mouth at once, would you? Unless you are a garbage disposal, the answer is probably not, so take your time and eventually everything will start making sense.

Another way I get motivated is through other people. You are who you surround yourself with, so make sure to choose friends who are just as motivated as you are, if not more. Surround yourself with people who lift you up and give you the positive energy you need to keep going. Get an “accountability partner”, because it is easier to achieve more with other people rather than by yourself.

Why do you think people have gym buddies or personal trainers? The same thing applies here. Be clear with that person your intentions: how you want to achieve your goals, as well as what your downfalls are. For example, if you find yourself getting distracted easily with social media (which is very common issue these days), let your accountability partner know – that should be something you two work on to ensure you worry less about your follower count, and care more about the amount of work you are actually getting done.

With all of this being said, it is important to be honest. Honesty is the best policy, because if you are not being honest with yourself then you will not grow from your mistakes. The mistakes I make are also what motivates me. I continually strive to be a better person than I was the day before, so if I did something I was not proud of previously, then I make a note of what I did and then I write down how I can avoid having that situation happen again.

There are so many ways to get motivated, and it all depends on the individual. These are just a few ways I stay motivated, and I hope my advice helps.

Q: You have many short film projects coming up this year. I particularly like the title of Netflix and Kill and the visual look of The Spirit Collector. Can you tell us anything about these projects?

A: YES, of course. Thank you for your kind words. I cannot give too many details away just yet, but Netflix and Kill is very relatable – up to a certain point, at least one can only hope. There is so much to choose from on Netflix that it can be a bit overwhelming to agree on what to watch. Burritos get cold and lampshades get broken; a lot goes on in this film. You will have to watch it to see what happens.

I really enjoyed working on this project. The cast and crew was so easy to work with; everyone had such a great attitude and had the same vision, which made this shoot a breeze. The director James Sowka is the pun master, so he was cracking me up with all of his witty puns. My co-star Spencer Carter is extremely talented and made me laugh a lot with his love for hats. I am really excited to share the final product with you all.

The Spirit Collector was a fun shoot to work on as well. I am in the flashback portion of the short film, which sent me back in time to Ancient Egypt and allowed me to play the role as a witch who has lost everything because of this demon who wreaked havoc and killed everyone and everything I knew and loved. This shoot was challenging to say the least, but I could not be happier with the final product. Everyone did such a fantastic job. And I am really happy you mentioned the visuals of the project; can you guess who made the movie poster?

Working on a Long Term Production / Latinx Production is always such a joy. The individuals involved with these two production companies are so driven and motivating – it is extremely inspiring. When I say that it is important to surround yourself with people who will push you to be the best version of yourself, these are the type of people I am talking about.

Q: Lastly, what are your plans and ambitions for 2018 and beyond?

A: MY plans for 2018 are to really focus on myself. This may sound selfish, but I do not mean it in that way. I believe it is so important to take care of yourself both mentally and physically. The past year has been very “go,go,go” for me, and I realized I never stopped to smell the freshly cut grass (roses are overrated, even though they do smell good). My main focus was making and saving money, and that was not healthy. So this next year I will focus on self-care and my pursuit of happiness.

I am currently mapping out a 3-year plan for myself, and will be headed in whatever direction that plan takes me. Secretly hoping some big things will happen, like booking a national commercial or becoming a series regular on the next big hit television show, but I cannpt plan on that happening for sure (staying positive that it does though).

All I can say is that this plan will have me facing a lot of challenges and I am excited to dive in head first. As an actor, I plan to be taking a lot of classes to really broaden my horizons. Taking classes consistently no matter your skill level is very important – there is always something new to learn. You have to continually work at your craft if you want to get better and better.

The sky is the limit as a creative; there is no such thing as perfection, and that is the beauty of being an actor. No person is perfect in real life. And as an actor, it is our job to understand new perspectives. It is important to learn new lessons every day so we can translate that into our performances. We are continually on a pursuit to be the best that we can be, to learn more than we did yesterday, and to feel something we have never felt before. Never stop moving forward.

That is why in 2018 and beyond, I strive to learn more about myself, to learn more about others, and to learn as many lessons as I can along the way. And I encourage you to do the same. Break a leg out there.

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