This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Omaha: The Highlights

With holiday trips as they are, and my visits back to Omaha being more infrequent than I'd like them to be, I had to think of priorities, must-sees, must-dos, and must eats.
Here's the quick run-down of some of my faves:

*Pear's Coffee --
locally-owned and available at every Omaha grocery store. (Cozy Caramel...hint, hint.)

*The Greek Islands -- Go! Drop everything and go! I'm not kidding...I have dreams of The Greek Island's dinners with fresh Feta and kalamata olives. My family's been going there since I was a kid, so a meal there is an ultimate priority, any and every time I'm in Omaha!
The Greek Islands Restaurant- 3821 Center Street, Omaha NE 68105 - 402-346-1528

*The Old Market -- The best place to traipse around with no particular purpose, buy awesome postcards depicting the undiscovered beauties of I-80 (??) and expose your inner geek for awesome architecture. I took way too many photos of cool buildings than I'd like to admit. Had it not been frigid, I would've indulged my love of ice cream at the nearby Ted & Wally's or Maggie Moo's, but that's for another time.

*The Keystone Walking Trail -- My trip wouldn't be complete without a walk down this trail where you can see Canadian geese congregating and the occasional deer searching for the remainders of undeveloped South Omaha land (thanks to a new Wal-mart and its nationally-recognized, strip mall followers...) Keystone Trail - Bellevue Loop.
*Ice-Skating At the Old Hitchcock Park -- (now called Motto McLean Ice Arena.) I spent 2 hours indulging my inner Olympian on the very ice where I originally learned to ice-skate. The entire rink, the virgin ice, was all mine and I mean all mine since I was the only one who showed up for that morning's public-skate session.

*Dollar General Store -- Now, I wouldn't necessarily call this a highlight especially considering how spoiled I am with So. Cal's 99 Cents Stores but for my grandmother, it was a definite highlight. Her excitement for plastic products never ceases to amaze me. Rubbermaid or Glade? If only my daily life choices were that easy...Even after 2 sleep-inducing hours amongst the Dollar's aisles and a nearly constant need to bang my head against the wall, I suppose I'd have to agree that it was indeed a highlight of sorts-- if for no other reason than I got to spend the time with my grandmother.

Photo by Kendra Liedle "Bridge To Bellevue" -- taken along the Keystone Trail in Southern Omaha.
Copyright © 2007 Kendra Liedle

The Holiday Run-Down: A Visit To Omaha

The only way to truly remember every day of your life is to write it down. That's exactly what I've done every single day for the past 3 years now. My trip to Omaha was no exception.

Sure, everything else was off-kilter: I stayed up all hours of the night going through old yearbooks and autograph collections (Barbara Mandrell?? must've been a phase), ate out nearly every day, and in-between times, made full meals of almond bark and pumpkin-pecan pie swished down with sips of yummy shiraz or Omaha's own, Pear's coffee, depending on the time of day. (My nutritional status has never been more festive!)

But throughout all that mish-mash, my routine for daily writing never wavered and my Omaha writings are even highlighted with random photos of moments along the way. My snapshot of this woman in the window, taken in the Downtown Old Market area of Omaha during a particularly FRIGID afternoon last week is a clear example of that.

Photo by Kendra Liedle - "Woman In The Window" - Omaha's Downtown Old Market
Copyright © 2007 Kendra Liedle

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Nearly White Christmas

I arrived back in L.A. close to midnight, with one foot still on Christmas Eve time and one foot gingerly touching the early morning hours of Christmas Day. After I stumbled inside my place, I crashed and slept (uninterrupted) for an amazing 12 hours! I didn't wake up to Christmas again until just about 1:00 p.m. Pacific unlike me. (It was a torturous and exhausting trip back, which I'll detail later.)

With nine full days of winter weather in my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska and temps in the 20s (F), I believe I got a hefty helping of mitten-worthy weather and perfectly-powdery snowball-making snow. I even got my photo taken with Santa...sure I'm an adult... but why the hell not? I was in the local Mangelson's craft store and Santa looked bored. ( I apologize to my friend, Angela, for coercing her into joining me for the Santa photo-op.)

It wouldn't be the last time for a photo-op. I admit, I went full-out, camera-happy in the town I used to call home. It's amazing how after even the briefest time away, all that was old is new again...the ordinary becomes extraordinary...

A look down a snow-covered walking trail in South Omaha suddenly becomes irresistibly alluring, despite the cold...

More to come...Happy Holidays To Everyone!!!

Panoramic Photo by Kendra Liedle
*Southern section of Omaha's Keystone Trail along Harrison Street ~ just a short walk from the neighborhood where I grew up.
Copyright © 2007 Kendra Liedle

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sliding In My Socks Through LAX...and hoping for a miracle

I've never flown home so close to the holidays. Somehow, I thought the true insanity of holiday travel was exaggerated for effect--like a Christmas fable handed down from generation to generation. It's probably inconvenient, but it can't be that bad...but I believed the fable enough to avoid holiday travel until now. I "thought" that ten days before Christmas, I'd be okay getting up at 3:30 a.m. for a 6:00 a.m. flight, since I wasn't checking baggage.
Not so.

The holiday travel insanity is no joke! Especially at places like Los Angeles International Airport (aka LAX) ~ particularly at 5 a.m. on a Saturday--ten days before Chrismas. The self-service check-in line was at least 150 people thick... !!!! The airline personnel was not exactly helpful (nor friendly) and I was irrated to see about 10 "self-service" computers down. Grr..

By the time I got through the stupid check-in line, my flight was already boarding. I began seriously contemplating the possibility of missing my flight, and therefore my connection in Dallas...etc, etc...but I remained hopeful. It wasn't last call on my flight--the cabin was still open--

I fumbled my way through security and just starting f****ing running--in my socks--not bothering to put my shoes back on after security. I slid right into my gate and made it! Miracles do happen!

I'm here. Made it to Omaha...and the weather's not really all that awful. Cold? You betcha, but it's alright. Plus, it's been three years since I've seen snow--the soft, powdery kind--and I have to admit, it's visit...

Friday, December 14, 2007

"You picked the wrong time to come to Omaha," my brother says...

One way in which you can manipulate time and space is by re-visiting the place in which you grew up.

In a way, it's like entering another dimension. For me, that place is Omaha.

Though I spent the majority of my life there, it feels like a world away. Warm in a familiar, deja vu way, but cold in a way that whispers in your ear that you don't really fit--not so much--anymore.

Tomorrow, I'll fly there. I'll pack up as little as humanly possible, yet enough to get by, and hope to hell that there are lots and lots of heavy winter coats and sweaters and mittens to get me through. My own brother says, "You picked the wrong time to come to Omaha," as though I needed such positive encouragement.

After six years of L.A. winters, I'm not looking forward to freezing, nor am I really prepared. My Omaha treks usually occur in September~ for a reason. The current Omaha weather forecast alone is enough to make me cry, and the idea of existing in that climate for several days is enough to make me wear the ugliest, embroidered, hand-me-down, thrift shop Christmas sweater there is. (I don't care what I look like; I just want to be warm.)

And that's the beauty of it. When you go back to your hometown, nobody really cares what you look like--they're just glad to see you. And that warmth and familiarity will melt just about anything, except for maybe my holiday spirit.

Home may be where the heartland is... but it's certainly not where the sun is. This is what I'm flying into. Yup, the holidays will make you do crazy things.

OMAHA, NEBRASKA WEATHER FORECAST (12/15/07 and onward...)


Intermittent Clouds Intermittent Clouds Mostly Sunny Mostly Sunny Intermittent Clouds Cloudy

Sat. Sun. Mon. Tue. Wed. Thu.
HI 24° F 32° F 34° F 38° F 38° F 36° F
LO 9° F 15° F 20° F 21° F 20° F 21° F

Photo credit: "Lightcicles" by Jim (the CG)/flickr
Copyright © 2007 Kendra Liedle

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Time To Bottle Me Up; I'm Starting To Ferment...

There’s nothing
that makes you take stock of your life more than the passing of another birthday. That annual event crept up on me, once again, this past weekend. The excitement and anticipation of birthdays seemed to end for me after a rollicking 13th birthday slumber party at the Howard Johnson in Omaha. Life was simpler then…
I’ve been aging ever since.

Not that I’m old…quite yet, but I can no longer fudge the "young adult / adulthood" line anymore ~ as much as I’ve enjoyed it in years past.

No. Now my growth has reached its crest, and I can almost feel the calcium beginning to leach from my bones.

Time To Bottle Me Up; I’m starting to ferment.
But I plan to age well. I’m now at an age that I very much embrace the fact that most people guesstimate that I’m younger than I actually am. I hate to break it to them, and most times I don’t. Revealing the truth, would, in a way, spoil the enigma.

For years, I’ve been the reluctant birthday girl. There were times when I stayed home and ignored the incoming voicemails and well-wishes-- purely because I didn’t want to acknowledge the coming of another year (and the subsequent pressure of finding a way to celebrate, as one is supposed to do on occasions such as these.)

Most of the time, my birthday qualms have been totally irrational. At sixteen, I spent the afternoon crying. Having discovered my first ‘smile wrinkle,’ I flipped out.

“I’m getting wrinkles!”

I vowed never to smile again. Luckily that didn’t last…or else, three rounds of braces would’ve been for naught. At 23, I had a major birthday breakdown because by that age, it occurred to me that I’d lived longer than two of my very good friends who passed away before me. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I would continue to move forward in life while their lives had ended prematurely.

Today, however, I see possibility. I’ve learned something from the ones I’ve lost just as much as all the other people who have touched me in my lifetime so far. Today, I realize that no matter what I accomplish from here on out, I’ll know that the purpose of life, its meaning for me, will only be revealed to me if I’m open to the journey ahead. Adventures await…
A Toast To Another Year Of Me!

*Perfect grapes photo by me*
Copyright © 2007 Kendra Liedle

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Sad Day For Omaha

I am choosing not to comment much on the shootings today in my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. It's an emerging story.... both CNN and The New York Times currently report that nine people (including the shooter) have died, with others injured. Some reports have said that the shooter, who left a suicide note, wanted to "go out in style."

I find this horrifying, especially during a season of peace, joy, family and friends.

Fame at all costs, even notoriety, is never worth the bloodshed of fellow human-beings.

The shooter wanted fame...he wanted Breaking News...the headlines of CNN and The New York Times... and the front page of The World Herald and every other major metropolitan newspaper ~ his name in *lights* ( or at least in the media .)

Therefore, I will comment no further except to say that I'm saddened and...

It's certainly a sad day for Omaha...

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Missing Maternal Link

Somehow, somewhere along the line, I realized that I just didn’t get it--the maternal instinct-- women are supposed to just have.

Between making mud pies in the backyard, climbing trees, writing silly plays and baking cookies (a girly talent I do have), I didn’t have time (or the inclination) to imagine my ‘fairy-tale wedding’ or ‘the beautiful babies I’d make.’

That isn’t to say that I’m a total ‘marriage and mommy’ cynic or that I’d never become a mom, but...I'll be honest, I’m certainly not jumping for joy for baby showers or wedding showers or really any showers that don’t involve…water.

On the rare occasions when a movie about women is made, it’s refreshing when that movie isn’t all baby-cooing, wedding planning, and so super-sappy it makes my whole body hurt.

That’s why I love Adrienne Shelly’s film, Waitress. Yes, it’s about women AND yes, it involves a pregnancy, but it has none of the fluff you might expect and it’s much more humorous than you might imagine…and it involves baking – pies, that is-- something I can appreciate as a creative and visual art.

With a sprinkling of Citizen Ruth and The Good Girl and a dash of Steel Magnolias and other sweet ingredients all its own--including former Felicity herself, Keri Russell, Waitress is a must-see!

Its wry humor gives it an unexpected edge as it portrays Jenna, a girl trapped in her life and not so fond about discovering the fact that she's pregnant.

“I’m having the baby and that’s that,” says Jenna, “It’s not a party though.”

Just as Jenna has a passion for pie-making, it doesn't take much to find your passion for Waitress. I waited so long to see it that I thought, for sure, I’d be disappointed. Instead, I was deliciously satisfied. This flick just made it to my Amazon Wish List... [hint, hint] and for those of you who haven't yet seen it, it just came out on DVD so ya'll got no excuses. And if you're looking for a flick to watch while you bake all those holiday cookies, your Waitress has arrived.

Distributor: Fox Searchlight, a studio that’s not afraid to take chances by releasing movies like Waitress and investing the time and energy in marketing them. Check out Fox’s luscious and colorful Waitress website.

Fox’s current slate includes Juno and The Savages, both non-traditional film fare getting critical acclaim [that surely has studios who passed on the projects biting their lips raw with envy. Remember, this is the studio that brought us Little Miss Sunshine.]

Cast: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Adrienne Shelly, Jeremy Sisto & Andy Griffith
Director/Screenwriter: Adrienne Shelly
Producer: Michael Roiff
Genre: Drama / Romance / Comedy
Rating: PG13
Running time: 104 min.

Copyright © 2007 Kendra Liedle

This entry is also available for viewing at:
Waitress The Movie: Serving Up A Wry Slice Of Pie

Note: Tragically, Writer/Director Adrienne Shelly, who also appears in the film, was murdered just prior to the film's acceptance into Sundance, something that surely would have made her proud. (Heck, it makes me proud for her!)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Good Grief, What A Relief!

I’m not gonna lie… I’m sooo gosh darn glad that Thanksgiving is over. The end…finnisimo…fin.
All t
hat pressure to figure out what you’re going to do (and/or where you’re going to go), what you’re going to bring--or if you’re going to bring something...

Won’t there already be too much food? Then, you have that interior monologue about whatever it is you may or may not bring to whatever gathering you may or may not decide to attend on the day, and those are your thoughts if you're merely a guest!

My "guest" thoughts run rampant. Should I bring dessert? Another dessert? Is that what people want? It’s probably what people really want, but they don’t want to admit that they want it. Or should I bring a vegetable side dish? People want to want the vegetable side dish or an extra helping of yams, but in all reality, they’ll suffer through the healthier items so they can indulge in the desserts that they really don’t want to admit that they want.

Notice how there’s always leftover turkey (and countless ways to use it up), yet there’s hardly ever tips on how to best preserve the last of Emeril’s Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake…

At Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving, each person gets:

* Two slices of buttered toast
* Some pretzel sticks,
* A handful of popcorn, and
* A few jelly beans.

It could be worse, but the thing with Thanksgiving is that no one will allow you to not have the traditional feast or, God forbid, spend Thanksgiving alone...even though secretly you were kinda looking forward to it... BUT staying home would've meant that you wouldn't get to try that mean bourbon cheesecake or talk about world travels with a documentary filmmaker recently returned from Bangladesh after doing a doc on the demise of cruise ships. luck would have it, I got that last-minute invite to whip me into shape and out into the Turkey Social World for the evening so I'd have a reason to whip into shape afterwards.

Popcorn, toast, jellybeans? Not bad... since besides yams (which I actually like) and mashed potatoes (which are hard to mess up), I could safely live without most of all the other turkey "fixins." But thanks to all, who made my Thanksgiving a memorable one, despite my reluctance of Pilgrim's Pride.

We can be thankful and gluttonous all we want, but let’s face it, Thanksgiving is just a holiday to keep us occupied while we get ready for the real holidays. I'd rather skip Turkey Day and hold out for the good stuff of Seasons Greetings fame.

But in the meantime, pass the leftover Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake…

Oh,wait—there’s isn’t any? Gosh, darn it! Someone should've brought another dessert!

Copyright © 2007 Kendra Liedle

Friday, November 23, 2007

Article Updates

New article published: Writer's Strike Trickle Down Effects
Full content here

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Waiting For God--is it that time of year AGAIN??!!

As the collective holidays loom near.... I've become increasingly aware of a strange phenomenon that seems to become more apparent every year:

Time seems to snowball faster and faster one passes the invisible line between childhood and adulthood. As a child, summers lasted FOREVER and the holidays could never come fast enough, especially for me, since my birthday lands in December, too.

Waiting...waiting...waiting...all those months for packaged gifts was tortuous, to say the least. I got in trouble (on more than one occasion) for slitting my Christmas presents open in the morning and sneakily re-wrapping them so they would appear untampered for the "official" unwrapping with family and the home video camera.

This "officialness" would not begin until after 6 p.m. Christmas evening, once my grandparents arrived. It was enough to make any kid scream ~ especially a Sagittarian one-- forced to wait nearly 11 months before any gifting.

Don't even get me started on the old, "This is your birthday / Christmas present" cheap shot I've heard many, many times in my lifetime...Historically, this statement has been uttered by my little brother most often, the same little brother who ratted me out on my clever "Slit/Re-wrap holiday scheme" after several years of successfully getting away with it, scotch-tape free, so to speak.

The funny thing is that now that I'm an adult, the receiving of gifts isn't really all that important anymore. The magic of the holidays has not lost its allure by any means, but now my greatest pleasure is giving gifts and spreading the happiness of the season with others.

Although that sounds even sappier than I had intended, the idea is the same: It really is better to give than receive. The greatest thing is that all that re-wrapping of childhood gifts has made me an excellent adult gift-wrapper!

Copyright © 2007 Kendra Liedle

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Where's The 'Fallout' Shelter?

Honestly, I didn’t think that it would happen so quickly—the fallout from the WGA Writer’s Strike, now in its 2nd week.

Granted, I’m not a WGA writer, but here in Hollywood, that’s been a good thing lately. Would I have to surrender my keyboard or hide my favorite fine-point pens? Would I be barred from blogging? That would be a shame.

However, as a talent manager’s assistant, my “bread-and-butter gig,” the effects of writers on the picket lines of both coasts and (now stagehands in New York) has rapidly changed the landscape of my normal, day-to-day work. It’s the unfortunate ‘trickle down effect’ of industry labor strikes, that in effect, will strike both above and below-the-line talent. We’re used to the slow and steady decline of work as the holidays approach, but not the rapid origami-folding of our industry where it hurts most (and at a time when it hurts most.)

The majority of my job as a talent manager’s assistant involves submitting our actor clients for available roles that are released by casting companies, who in turn, receive the go-ahead to release these roles from production companies and overseeing studios.

Within days of the WGA strike, the dregs of the entertainment world had risen to the surface with their projects, which have only gained prominence in the last few days because there’s literally nothing left. A few SAG Features, commercials, and TV shows that are still up-and-running are releasing roles, here and there, maybe…from the stockpiled scripts they have, but it’s becoming increasingly dismal with each passing day. Enough so, that Breakdown Services sent talent managers a memo the other day stating that from December until the end of the strike, they will not be charging current subscribers the usual fee for subscriptions to breakdowns. They feel bad for us, they don’t want to lose all their subscribers for an scarily, unspecified period of time. They know….it’s gonna get worse.

This week, Breakdowns are evaporating quicker than L.A.’s water supply. What’s left behind is a growing ghost town of deferred pay, non-union, copy/credit/meal, student films, reality shows, game shows, webisodes up the yazoo (offering mostly, you got it: no pay), and creepily questionable ultra-low-budget projects that are forced to disclose that yes, they will contain nudity. In turn, actors in those projects will have to question their morals, the ‘tastefulness’ of said nudity, and just how desperate they are in an even more competitive entertainment climate than ever.

It’s the classic, “If…then…,”cause-and-effect premise. If there are no suitable projects (namely scripted, fictional material), I cannot submit our actor clients. If our actors aren’t submitted, they don’t get called in for auditions. If they don’t get called in for auditions, they get nervous and self-conscious.

Not fun for them and not so much fun for the talent manager either, I might add. I’m finding myself with less and less to actual manage and an overall job that’s hanging on by a thread. However, at least I have a job. I know storyboard artists and location scouts and craft services professionals—even gift basket companies whose phones aren’t ringing as much as they should be these days.

I fight for the writers (and the writer in me) in this era of uncharted territories and media galaxies, and of course, I want what’s fair. Yes, writers should get residuals. Yes, they should be paid if content they wrote is streamed online or downloaded by users. No, studio execs should not be able to weasel their way out of payments by saying that streaming video constitutes entirely promotional material.

Writers spin hay into gold, words into dollars…there is a high level of demand for the imaginary worlds they create. Alas, writers should not have to settle for what the studios choose to put in the collection plate.

That said, I also want the picket lines to go away because I know just how many of us in the industry are, and will be, affected by this before it’s all over. We all deserve a happy holiday season.
Copyright © 2007 Kendra Liedle
*Illustration by Unknown Screenwriter/flickr

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Not-So-Lucky Strike

Like bowling balls, producers have been knocking over writers and finding ways to screw them over since the beginnings of Hollywood.

In the last few years, the internet has brought forth a new generation of writers (and ways to exploit them royally.) Producers grumble about losing money to all those crappy, bootlegged, recorded-on-a-camera-phone copies of their new theatrical releases, but at the same time suggest that perhaps writers don’t really need residuals when the shows and films they write for are downloaded off the internet.

Alas, the used and abused bowling pins have risen, united in their cause, to overtake the bowling balls of Hollywood and make them play fair again. But, as anyone knows, it’s much harder to bowl a perfect game than it seems like it should be and when it comes to labor strikes, no one really wins in the end.

Both writer and producer union reps have stared each other down with crossed arms, deadlocking on key issues in lengthy round-table discussions for long enough. With the failure of playschool-style contract negotiations, the writers and producers have brought in the big guns (No, not the Teamsters, at least not yet), but an official federal mediator. But so far, even with third party involvement, members of the Writer’s Guild Of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers aren’t exactly making nice. WGA members accompanied by some high-profile SAG actors smart enough to know they can’t act without good material, officially went on strike, as of Monday.

For the first since 1988, the year of the last widespread writer’s strike, daytime and late night talk shows have been immediately thrown into re-runs. There will be no more Headlines from Leno (at least not current ones), no hope of another public sob story from Ellen, and no more Top Ten lists from Letterman.

So on this momentous occasion, to which I certainly understand the dilemma between producers, writers, and the quandary of new media compensation, I, as a non-union writer toiling daily "on spec" here in Hollywood, will provide a Top Ten List of my own.

For both producers and writers, I offer hope and creative interjection on how to manage during this questionable time of spitball negotiations, and I hope that both sides can come to a solid agreement (sooner, rather than later.)


10. Stare out the window blankly and contemplate the hopelessness of humanity.
9. Drunk-dial Producers Guild of America members and pitch your very worst script ideas.
8. Learn calligraphy and practice the art of writing without really writing.
7. Stalk the local library and count how many people walk out with FREE DVDs and CDs.
6. Search for your own name on imdb on as many different computers as possible to “up your star meter” (so you’ll be a hotly pursued writer when the strike ends.)
5. Schedule as many medical appointments as possible. You don’t know how long this health care plan is gonna last.
4. Hack into Netflix accounts and rearrange the DVD titles in peoples’ queues.
3. Volunteer to help decorate Beijing’s controversial float entry for the Tournament of Roses Parade, just for the helluva it.
2. Formulate a reality show staged on the front lines of picketing and put all your writer friends on the payroll.
1. After your picketing shift at the studio is over, mosey over to the set of the TV show you formerly wrote for and pocket all the good stuff from the craft service table.


10. Actually read that stack of quality, character-driven scripts that your assistant’s assistant shelved upon arrival.
9. Enroll in that community extension boot camp screenwriting class. After all, how hard could it possibly be?
8. Jump on the sudoku craze so you can keep those number crunching skills healthy.
7. Take the whole family to Aspen. The official “federal mediator” will take care of everything. Might as well get some quality skiing in.
6. Re-watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Try to decipher the thematic elements.
5. Host a back-lot studio BBQ. Appoint Michael Moore as host and have him invite all the documentary and reality filmmakers he knows.
4. Cook you own Thanksgiving dinner for the first time since ’88.
3. Have your assistant search and destroy any bootlegged copies of movies that may be lurking in your office.
2. Bed all the hot, young ingénues while you still can--since SAG and AFTRA contracts expire in June 2008.
1. Remove all writers from the company Christmas list.

Copyright © 2007 Kendra Liedle
Associated Content
"We write alone...So to come together like this is to feel a sense of unity. That you're part of something bigger than you."

~Writer-Director, James L. Brooks, as told to The Los Angeles Times)

Photo Caption: Members of the Writers Guild of America walk a picket line outside CBS studios in Los Angeles.
Photo Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times, November 5, 2007
For more information about the current Writer's Strike, click here

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Good Food Deserves Fan Mail

Playing With My Food
While Writing Fan Mail...
(And Why Deprivations Across Borders Are Good Boosts For Tourism)

I also write fan mail to products I like and companies I think are doing "good" like Luna bars, for instance, and Gardenburger and Newman's Own products and the yummy goodness of 8th Continent Soy Milk. To prove it, here are some of my letters penned during bouts of boredom:

Dear 8th Continent,

I was (at first) reluctant to spend more on your soy milk, but with a coupon I gave it a shot. Now? Coupon or no coupon...There's no going back, your soy milk (light vanilla is my favorite) is far superior to Silk and other brands I've tried...great to drink on its own, over cereal, or whipped up in the blender. I'm the only soy drinker in the house, so...does your soy milk come in smaller cartons? I'm always trying to guzzle it in the last few days of the 7-10 day mark after the carton's been open... Otherwise, just writing to say THANKS. You give soy milk a good name (& taste!)
A Note Of Thanks (From 8th Continent)
Thank you for contacting 8th Continent regarding 8th Continent soymilk. It was kind of you to share your thoughts, and you have brightened our day.

There is a great deal of time and effort involved in developing our various products, promotions and cookbooks. We will be sure to share your thoughts with the appropriate individuals.

Additionally, 8th Continent soymilk is only available in a 64 oz bottle. We have forwarded your suggestion regarding a smaller bottle to our product specialists for review.

We appreciate your loyalty and hope you will continue to choose our products.


Consumer Services - 8th Continent
An Open Love Letter To A Garden Variety Burger

Originally from Nebraska, I gave up red meat back when I was about 12. Slyly swapping my meat for my brother's veggies in an all carnivore family worked out great for my brother and I, but it was starting to get a little suspicious. And turning down BEEF in Nebraska was just as bad as admitting I don't like football (which I don't, by the way.)

In comes Gardenburger, my savior, after countless BBQs of adolescent past where I was reduced to eating hamburger buns and pickles when others feasted on hotdogs and cheeseburgers, right off the grill.

Gardenburger helps me defuse comments from people, like my grandmother, who, as she saws through her NY strip, always shakes her head, and tells me, "You just don't know what your missing..."

After all these years, I'm not missing anything, I'm gaining good eats like the variety I get from Gardenburger and a mostly vegetarian diet. So, thanks Gardenburger for adding some protein that even meat-eaters can't make fun of (like To-furky, for instance.)

Sometimes, I write fan mail that's intermixed with my whining about things like product availability. For instance, Cadbury:

I was blown away by the sheer variety of Cadbury products while I was on a recent trip to New Zealand. Cadbury makes hot cocoa powder? Cake mix? Bazillions of different chocolate bars? I thought they just made those fruit and nut milky bars and Cadbury Creme eggs with the odd yolky confection in the middle. It was like I'd entered a Wonkaville of awe and wonder. My first wonder being, "Why don't we get this level of Cadbury love in good ol' USA?"

Upon a little investigation, I discovered that...Hmm...Cadbury's agent in the U.S.A. is Hershey. So while Hershey's acts like the Hollywood Power Agent of American chocolate companies with its American products being well-represented on American grocery shelves in all shapes and sizes, from milk chocolates to darks and coconut to fruit, there's a definite lack of presence for their U.K.-based client, The Royal Cadbury.

Now I love a decent Hershey's Dark just like the next person, but I felt it was time our Cacao Englishman, stepped up to the plate. Why should he continue to be just the Cadbury Caddy while the American chocolatier golfs?

So after writing to Cadbury's Corporate Offices to express my disappointment, I was comforted in the fact that a lad named Charlie, which I imagined just like the Charlie of Cadbury Wonkaville, took time out from his post in their U.K. corporate offices to hear me out and-- so very politely-- respond to my enquiry.

Why should Europe and the the South Pacific get all the good Cadbury stuff, while we get the gushy, eggy Mcmuffin yolks of their leftovers? Egg on my face again...

Don't even get my started on RJ's Awesome natural licorice from New Zealand...The Kiwis? They're keeping the good licorice to themselves. Yup, Americans are left with the staleness of Twizzlers and Red Vines while dreams of the smooshy, soft RJ's dance in our heads. Why didn't I buy more???

Copyright © 2007 Kendra Liedle

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rinky-Dink Ink For Corporate America

I've never been
afraid to get egg
on my face...

Maybe it’s because of my advertising background or because of my love for writing, but sometimes when I’m bored, I like to write to companies about their products.

Occasionally, I’ll rant or bring an issue that’s important to me to their attention, but I try to write nice things about their products when I can since I figure that most people who take the time to make a comment are probably of the “ranting” variety.

I also like to be funny since I also figure that the people working at these mega-conglomerate corporations are most probably just as bored as I am (if not more) and are hoping for funny “product fan mail.”

I get the most fun from actually writing commentary to companies, but Company responses to inquiries can also be interesting.

Once I wrote to Jollytime Popcorn because I was annoyed that they were still using partially hydrogenated oil in their popcorn when Newman’s Own (& others) had switched to palm kernel oil. (I always like to mention the competition; it’s more fun that way.)
Jollytime got back to me with a letter stating exactly why partially hydrogenated oil was necessary for them…blah...and then gave me (3) coupons for FREE BOXES of their partially-hydrogenated-laden popcorn product.
Yippee Skippee, Hooray…
partially hydrogenated
popped corn
fun for me today!!!

Like I was ranting to them about their ingredients because what I really wanted was free product.

Partially hydrogenated oils in products has been one of my major peeves for about 3 years so it’s frequently one of my product rant topics.

I even wrote an ode to Cool-Whip about it:

Dear Kraft (Mother of Cool-Whip),

I used to LOVE Cool Whip... I'd freeze it and eat it right out of the container. I flipped when you came up with Chocolate and French Vanilla Cool Whip... That is, until about 2 YEARS AGO when I quit the WHIP... The ingredients on your label creeped me out: artificial ingredients I can't pronounce or identify, high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils... all the stuff we, humans should avoid.

So, I'd love to give you a compliment about your product, but unfortunately, I have to lament on why I can no longer do the WHIP. I miss you, I really do, but until you take away the hydrogenation and come up with another way to sweeten minus high fructose corn shopping cart will wheel right by the refrigerated display cases of Cool Whip...and I'll look away. (I've gotta be honest. This just isn't working and so...I’m gonna have to start spending more time with Mr. Reddi Whip. Sorry to break it to you...)

Yummy Cool-Whip Ingredients

Yes, I told them I was cheating on them with Mr. Reddi-Wip made of real cream and sugar which may be why I never heard back from them.

Here's another of my ingredient rants, which I would have liked to have titled, Smart Start My Ass??, but I'm sure the Kellogg's people would not have responded favorably to that.

Dear Kellogg’s

I was disappointed in your cold cereals as I looked at the ingredients online today and found that out of the forty-one cereals I looked at, only 9 did not have either: a) partially hydrogenated oils or b) high fructose corn syrup. I've had to cut out some of my former faves
( Kellogg's Corn Pops, for one) because I cut the above ingredients from my diet about three years ago.

Come on, even original Raisin Bran and Cornflakes and all your "Smart Start" varieties? (high fructose corn syrup) Your organic raisin bran has neither (HFCS/PHO) so I know it can be done.

I hope that you can adjust your recipes in the future.

From A "Cold Cereal For Dinner" California Girl
From Kellogg’s, I got the generic “trans fat/partially hydrogenated oil” response, but in Kellogg’s defense (as well as General Mills) they both said they are trying to work on it because of consumer concerns like mine.

From Kellogg’s: “Our food scientists have been working hard to reduce or replace the partially hydrogenated oils in our products, while retaining the taste and texture you love. We have made significant progress as a number of Kellogg products, including Morningstar Farms®, Eggo® Waffles, and virtually all of our cereals, are free of trans fat.”

Thanks for the update Kellogg's...keep us consumers aware...and aspire to more than FDA minimums, thanks!

Copyright © 2007 Kendra Liedle

*Photo credit: Cheryl's Art Box/ Funnyface eggs/flickr

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Hills Are Alive With Boysenberries?

I've seen (and heard) some ridiculous advertising concepts in my day, and I especially enjoy seeing international commercials featuring well-known people, a la Bill Murray in Lost In Translation.

I studied advertising in college, even have a degree in it, but decided I didn't want to be the copywriter hawking Junior Mint concepts to un-creative clients, like Augusten Burroughs (as he wrote about in his book, Possible Side Effects) or become blinded by hours of doing layouts via Photoshop. I also thought advertising would be too instead I decided to go "swimming With sharks" in Hollywood... Doesn't make much sense, I know, but that's for another story.

As much as the Hayley Westenra commercial I posted today makes me, uh, chuckle, I also know exactly what they're selling, the qualities they want to highlight in those little boysenberry pockets of goodness, and it's of course, memorable and just under 30 seconds. All of which make my advertising studies deem it a successful commercial. I don't know though, you be the judge.

*Photo credit: Bostonthiparty/flickr

Hayley Westenra TV CM サマー・レイン

Now, don't get me wrong. Hayley Westenra, from New Zealand, has a ridiculously beautiful voice. But this international commercial struck me as particularly funny. International commercials are always the best. Oh, and apparently the hills are alive with boysenberries...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bonfire Of The Vanities

Bonfire Of The Vanities
(A fire swallows up a home near Lake Arrowhead in CA)
*Photo credit: Robert Durell/Los Angeles Times*

I don’t live within immediate eyesight of any of the current fires in LA and San Diego Counties, but I can definitely sense their effects. As I drove to work this morning, I couldn’t help but notice a huge, dark cloud over my head (which really isn’t out-of-the-ordinary for me, mind you), but this dark cloud had a brownish-orange swirl to it that made it stand out from the smoggy, hazy commute that I’m used to.

The sun looked as if it had just been rolled down a hill of mud, and the ordinary pillow clouds that should have been dotting a blue sky instead looked like a really creative chef had added the orangey goo of melted candy corn and a touch of cocoa to their usual marshallowy goodness. Eewww…

Mmmm…. get a whiff of that fresh air… like your uncle charring a piece of human hair on the family grill. Those yummy fresh embers have provided quite an olfactory sensation today.

BUT, comedy and my fun with creative description aside… my heart goes out to those who have, and our losing their homes, as I write.

is the worst thing possible because it erases everything in its path, and there’s very little you can do to stop it.

With the huge population here, maybe we could all just take a big, heaping breath and blow those "candles" out, all the fires would go away.

If only it were that easy...

Just ask Greece…

Monday, October 22, 2007

From It Girl To Drive-Thru Rehab

After the demise of Hollywood's studio system, sweeping changes occurred throughout the entertainment industry. The studios no longer held the reins of their own empire. By the late '50s, independent producers began making their own movies and actors and other industry professionals faced both the insecurities (and freedom) of being free agents. Hollywood was forced to deal with stars and movie-making much differently than they had in the past.

Under the new system, sometimes referred to as "New Hollywood", there are still talent scouts, agents, publicists, and studio executives, but their roles and influence in a potential star's career have changed over the years. In the past, talent scouts sought out potential newcomers through other avenues such as radio, vaudeville, and regional or college productions. If these scouts were impressed, the potential star was flown to California (all expenses paid) for a screen test.

Nowadays, actors and other performers are expected to relocate to California on their own-- and at their own expense. Each actor is individually responsible for getting the attention of agents on their own, as well. Certainly, reality shows like American Idol, Survivor, and The Amazing Race (and outlets like YouTube) have become, in a sense, this generation's "vaudeville." But when the competition's over or the glimmer of instant celebrity wears off, a few are lucky enough to win agents or to entertain other offers, but most fail to become super-stars. For other hopefuls, the road is rocky and difficult, at best. Today's performers find that most people are not willing to take a chance on them, especially if they are unproven or inexperienced.

"For the most part, agents don't like to fool around with unknown people," says Mark Litwak, in Reel Power: The Struggle For Influence and Success In The New Hollywood, "It takes so long that by the time they've made all those steps to get an actor started, he has already gone off to another agent."

Contrary to the studio era, long-term contracts are no longer common. Studios don't train or groom performers into stars like they used to do. The industry is increasingly volatile, the world is moving faster and faster, and there's not enough time or money to devote to readying an unknown for stardom.

Even with the help of agents and personal managers, actors are very much on their own. It's up to them to find their own way into Hollywood's elite. Being seen at the 'in' clubs, hooking up with the right people, schmoozing with everyone who matters, and increasingly getting into the news whatever the cost is increasingly important for both unknowns and stars trying to maintain their appeal.

These days, with so many media outlets worldwide, overexposure is just as much a danger as the possibility of never being discovered at all. Unfortunately, it's lead to a crash and burn mentality. Today's It Girl: Tomorrow's Drive-thru Rehab Patient, has become an accepted cliche in today's Hollywood. (I don't even need to name names.)

Sure, you can chalk it up to bad choices, being young and reckless, and the negatives of being blessed with too much too soon, but there's no denying that the casualties of young Hollywood need help. Those that are in the most danger are the stars that have allowed celebrity to become them. They have no ability to conceive of a media that doesn't pay attention to them (or their antics.) Many of these stars cling to the limelight in desperation no matter what it takes. Agents, managers, family and friends, and studios are generally going to be the last ones to set boundaries or to tell these stars-- 'No'--at least as long as there is money to be made.

In the new Hollywood, agents and actors have become the most powerful components of the Hollywood scene. Successful actors are still a type of insurance for movie studios. By taking over many of the duties of the old studios, these star's agents have been given a certain level of clout that gives them more power than ever before. Because of the widely held belief that the success of a movie rests on the strength of its star name, stars have accumulated the power to demand larger fees for their services and increasingly generous cuts of gross box-office receipts of projects in which they are involved.

More and more actors have become more known for being famous than for the quality of their work. Since fans still want information about their favorites celebrities, access to this information has become increasingly lucrative. As a result, the public is now bombarded by paparazzi shots, information about celebrity whereabouts, gossip, and antics from all conceivable sides. Everything is so de-centralized that it's as though no one has control anymore.

Stars today, unlike the image-controlled and glamorized perfection of stars for most of the studio system era, have become increasingly more like ourselves. Want to know whether the celeb trainwreck-of-the-moment wore make-up in rehab? Chances are, there's a paparazzi photo to answer that-- or a TMZ segment completely devoted to it or a fan-posted video on YouTube.

Way back in 1998, there was a little article in Spin Magazine called "Is Sandra Bullock Good For You?" In it, writer Steve Erickson presented a keen observation: "In our relationship with our movie stars, the times can be read like tea leaves. Do we needour stars to be the size of our dreams, or the size of our lives?"

His thoughts seems more pertinent now than ever.

Who's steering the content of our media? Is this what we really want? How do we turn back? Until we stop to ponder this, the never-ending course we're on will continue to careen out-of-control.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Oscar News

63 Countries Seeking
Foreign Language Film Oscar®

Beverly Hills, CA — A record 63 countries, including new entrants Azerbaijan and Ireland, have submitted films for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 80th Academy Awards®, Academy President Sid Ganis announced today.

Nominations for the 80th Academy Awards will be announced Jan. 22, and the Oscars will be handed out Feb. 24


After The Wedding - Denmark
Days Of Glory (Indigenes) - Algeria
The Lives Of Others - Germany (* winner)
Pan's Labyrinth - Mexico
Water - Canada

Official Site Of The 80th Academy Awards:
Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Not Just Football, Beef, And Corn...Nebraska's Johnny Carson School


This past weekend, I was surprised to open up The Los Angeles Times Sunday Edition to see a full-page ad dedicated to Nebraska. A strange moment passed: Was I reading The Omaha World-Herald, my hometown newspaper? I flipped back to the front page to double check. Nope, this was indeed The Los Angeles Times.

There, in plain view, was a photo of Johnny Carson, clutching an Academy Award, with an announcement of dedication to the new Johnny Carson School Of Theatre & Film…in Lincoln, Nebraska, previously known for football, sweet corn, and hunky steaks.

My home state of Nebraska continues to surprise me. Not so very long ago, I was a student at UNL where, as an undergraduate, I majored in advertising at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Film was my true passion, always had been, but working in the film industry was more of a pipe dream than a career path~ especially in a place like Nebraska.

Sure, I took some film classes, mostly studies of classic foreign films, but Nebraska didn’t have anything even resembling a film program of any magnitude. Temple Hall was certainly less-than-impressive, arts funding in local schools was being cut, Ballet Omaha was struggling, and Ak-Sar-Ben (where the Nebraska Film Commission formerly had their cramped offices) was razed to build an engineering school. Things certainly did not look promising…so I did what I felt I had to do…I left.

My, how times have changed. First, there was the Quest Convention Center and arena built in downtown Omaha, then came Film Streams (an independent theatre, recently opened in downtown Omaha), and now even an Omaha Film Festival is starting to get some recognition.

The new school, bankrolled by longstanding support and a very generous donation from the estate of Johnny Carson, perhaps one of Nebraska’s most well-known natives, offers studies in all disciplines including: film, production design, acting, directing, and theatre studies. The school will have all the facilities and the resources of big-time film schools including multiple theatre and performance spaces, editing suites (including both Avid and Final Cut Pro), a host of film equipment and cameras, and guest artists through the university affiliations with the Lied Center For Performing Arts as well as the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center.

These days, as I continue to work professionally in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, I’m quickly realizing that Omaha seems to be having a creative renaissance of sorts. It makes me proud (and just a tad jealous that there was no Johnny Carson School for me.)

The new facilities were formally dedicated on October 12, 2007.
For more information about the Johnny Carson School Of Theatre & Film, including admissions and dedication festivities, please visit the following links:

Johnny Carson School Of Theatre & Film

Daily Nebraskan

*Photo Credit: Beebo Wallace

Monday, October 15, 2007

Historically Hollywood

Before I ever settled in Los Angeles, I studied the history of Hollywood quite a bit. I found it fascinating and I always secretly wished that I could have been around for Hollywood's "Golden Age." In college, I even wrote a thesis on it-- mostly because it gave me a great excuse to read the mega-stack of old Hollywood books I'd been reading anyway. My grandmother, a lifelong "fan" of all things Hollywood, also had a tremendous collection of Hollywood era books I'd been reading since I was a kid. Through my talks with her, I was able to vicariously live my own "Golden Age" existence ~ which was all the spark I needed to catch the entertainment bug myself.
With the explosion of the internet and my increased online publishing, I find myself again writing about Hollywood. Please check out some of my "Historically Hollywood" articles at the links below:

Evolution Of The Movie Star: How Stars Came To Be

Evolution Of The Movie Star: The Studio System

The Hollywood Studio System: The End Of An Era

*Photo credit: Secretspecialbeach/flickr

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Witches Brewing

There was something strange in the air yesterday...

Yes, it was Columbus Day-- that questionable holiday that appears on the map each year, but it was more than that.

Yesterday afternoon, I pulled into a parking lot and nearly ran over a witch on rollerblades. Her cape blew in the wind as she circled the lot, scowling at me. I realize it's October and Halloween is imminent, but isn't it a litte early?

Evidently, she (which I suspect was a 'he' in witch's drag) was skating around to promote a children's dentist office. I don't know about you, but if I were a child, nothing would scare me away from the dentist more than a badly-dressed warlock masquerading as a witch. Frankly, it still scares me.

From there, I entered Blockbuster to take advantage of an e-coupon associated with their Blockbuster Rewards program. I subscribe to Netflix, but thought I'd try the competition's free trial since my Netflix queue now stands at 70+ titles. (I badly need to catch up!) Perhaps the witch scared all the movies away since Blockbuster doesn't seem to carry them anymore. After surveying the paltry selection, I ended up with Entourage Season 3, Part 1 (the only decent pick.)

Then, I went to Target to find that all the chipper, albeit useless, young adult team members had been replaced by haggard-looking, not-so-nice, post-menopausal women wearing odd, I-can't-tell-if-it's-a-costume ribbons in their hair.

Now, I have nothing against old people. In fact, I really like them (better than younger people sometimes even), but unlike the nice, older people that work as Wal-mart greeters, these women clearly did not want to be plodding down the aisles of my neighborhood Target. Collectively, they clutched their price scanners and glared at me as I dared to try on a hat in the accessories section.

The day before all of this, I'd gotten that nifty Social Security Administration notice in the mail telling me that I'm eligible for benefits. However, they also told me that they project that Social Security funds will be exhausted by 2041.

In the Target aisle, as I looked at the vultures circling around me, price scanners pointed in my direction, ribbons (like horns) standing on-end with static electricity I told myself,

"Kendra, quick! Do math in your head...2041...the year you were born...Will I, too, be doomed to pick up a broom and sweep the bull's eye corporation myself in a few years?"

It looks like I'll just barely make it... but there's no guarantee. The witches are brewing and I still could become one of them someday...

*Photo credit: Kenny Maths

Friday, October 5, 2007

Harvest Moon Rising

I may not be able to see the stars out here in Hollywoodland (at least the celestial kind), but the other night, I was able to capture a perfect Harvest Moon. I ran outside and flashbulbed the poor moon like some kind of crazed, giddy paparazzi girl with a new my case, that camera is a Panasonic Lumix FZ8 which I am still getting used to using.

I've been happy with it so far, yet flabbergasted by all the settings and gizmos which have prompted me to actually read the manual (something I typically avoid if at all possible.) This has been a rare exception...the other major one being the dreaded Photoshop manual I've been wanting to tackle for months.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Feist - 1 2 3 4

This music video is an incredible combination of synchronized choreography, art direction, innovative camerawork, and hours of rehearsal--all captured in one shot with constant camera movement. Reminiscent of Hollywood's Busby Berkeley of the 1930s...Enjoy!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Random Thoughts Can't Be Broken...

I just read a startling statistic in the October issue of SELF magazine. As reported in SELF's "happiness update":

Your mind wanders 30% of the time you're awake. Researchers say that zoning out may promote creativity, so daydream away...

My reaction? Is it really that LOW? For me, personally, I think I'm existing on a 60/40 split. ( i.e. 60% daydreaming, 40% focused on what I should be doing.) And that's probably a conservative figure--there are days in which, I'm sure, I zone out even more. However, I am pretty creative, and apparently, so are my cats.

As I write this, Athena & Cleopatra (my cats) are playing "keep away" with a grasshopper out on the patio. It's funny to watch. In fact, I'm "zoning out" right now, watching them... It's also Sunday, which makes it a perfect day to zone out anyway.

Occasionally, I keep track of the odd thoughts that creep through my mind. Sometimes seeing these thoughts in print, scarily proves that I'm more eccentric and odd than I initially thought.

For instance:

~How long can I stand on my head?
( Thanks to yoga, my current record is 4 minutes--I think I can get that to 5)

~How many hours does chewing gum last?
(I did have that stick of gum last close to 8 hours a few years ago--before it completely dissolved in my mouth into a disgusting glob of white tar. I think it was a stick of Extra. The green apple flavor...that's good stuff. I should pick some more up.)

~What time is it in New Zealand?
This prompts me to do math in my head and count on fingers, which is good to keep my elementary math skills up.

~Do bees get allergies? I mean, that would be awful if they did, being around all that pollen all the time.

~Why don't cows get colon cancer? They say that regular consumption of red meat could increase your risk, but what if you ARE red meat? I guess that makes you either completely immune or totally screwed.

~Hmm...I'm kind of a good singer ( when no one's listening.)

~Do I just not "get" movie musicals? Why are they coming back? What can I do to stop them? Am I the only one that doesn't know the lyrics to Grease by heart? (But I did like Moulin Rouge...hmm... many people thought it was weird, so it makes sense I'd like it. And I guess I have to make an exception for Evita which I really liked... Am I just a musical snob? Because, come to think of it, The King & I was really cool, and as a kid I was obsessed with Annie... Okay maybe they're not so bad...certain ones, but I still don't really like them, for the most part, with a few exceptions.

Even the random thoughts sometimes mushroom in my head and occupy space much longer than they should have -- as evidenced by the circular tangent my brain took on movie musicals (above.) I guess we're all a little neurotic, especially if we start paying attention to our daydreams.

Random Thoughts Can't Be Broken...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Diversity Adds Texture To TV & Film

Also see published article here

The minority report of entertainment today is starting to look up. With success from shows such as Ugly Betty and Grey’s Anatomy, it finally appears that diversity’s gone, well, almost mainstream.

This year, UCLA did a study titled, “Hollywood’s Race/Ethnicity and Gender-Based Casting: Prospects For A Title VII Lawsuit” that studied casting breakdowns posted on Breakdown Services, the entertainment industry’s primary source for casting, for a period of three months last year.

According to the study, as reported in back in January, most (94%) of breakdowns specified gender. Nearly 50% of roles did not specify race, but the role was understood to be for a Caucasian. The study, according to, claimed that the “total percentage of roles reserved for white actors” was nearly 69%, forcing minority actors to collectively compete for the roughly 8.5% of roles open to all ethnicities.

Those statistics make life as a minority actor look horrendously dire, as if life as an actor isn’t already dire enough. However, casting directors have found the study, done by Russell Robinson, professor of law at UCLA, to be frustrating. With stacks and stacks of headshots piling up within days of a breakdown posting and hundreds of photos to scroll through on electronic submissions, a casting director’s job is never easy.

Gender, age, race/ethnicity, and a host of other attributes are the many ways that casting directors attempt to narrow down their choices. Most of the time, casting directors only have so much power over the ethnicity of a certain role. Specifics of a role’s ethnicity can be outlined by the screenwriter of the project, the producer, the director, or anyone else in between. If you’re talking commercials, it gets even more complicated because you also have the added bureaucracy of an advertising agency and their clients, who also have a say in, not only who gets cast, but what their ethnicity is, if that indeed is even a factor. (For advertising, a lot of times it depends on the demographic they are trying to reach.)

When people in control make ethnic diversity a priority, minority actors have a greater opportunities. ABC hosts a minority showcase every year with the goal of padding their casting files full of ethnically diverse actors for consideration for roles in the upcoming year. Other networks have followed suit.

It also doesn’t hurt to have people in charge like Shonda Rhimes, creator and executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy. Even the Grey’s promotional tagline implies racial and ethnic diversity as well as plotlines: "Medicine nor relationships can be defined in black and white. Real life only comes in shades of grey"

Salma Hayek has used her clout as a well-known Latina actress to get things done in the past, such as her pet project, Frida. Lately, however, it’s been all about her success with helping to bring a widely successful Columbian telenovela, Yo Soy Betty, La Fea, to American audiences in the form of the now widely successful, Ugly Betty.

Diversity also extends to feature films. Even producers such as Ken Atchity of Atchity Entertainment International (AEI), most known for producing such films as and Joe SomebodyLife Or Something Like It is teaming up with Spanish Harlem Entertainment (SHE)/ Magic Dragon/Spark Digital Media to produce a series of multicultural, urban American films featuring a cast of characters that represent African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Caucasians.

We’re not talking one feature film; we’re talking a series of feature films. Collectively, they aim to crossover into the Hispanic market as well as the mainstream. The team’s first venture will be the feature, Hitting The Bricks, featuring Rapper Reem Raw as well as Actor-DJ Doctor Dre. The gritty, urban film follows a young, Hispanic man, Fuego, who has dreams of becoming a rap music sensation. (Chi-Li Wong and Mark K. Sullivan are also producers with Atchity on the project.)

As more producers in both film and television discover the benefits of appealing to mass minority markets (in other words, the dollars that can be made) more and more roles will be extended to actors of minority descent. America’s been changing for awhile, and entertainment’s always a step or so behind, but they’re starting to catch up.

And the era of prominently Caucasian leading roles and principal roles is going the way of Wonder Bread. However, just like with bread, complexity, texture, and diversity is good for us-- and for the entertainment we watch. Of course, it’s all good for minority actors. And that’s certainly not a bad thing.

*Photo credit: The cast of Ugly Betty
~ Copyright ABC/Ugly Betty

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Excerpt from Mishaps & Nebraska Mementos

Mishaps and Nebraska Mementos
(An excerpt, full article available here)

By Kendra Liedle

Sometimes you have to leave a place to really appreciated the things that make it special. Most of the time, the things you discover, and ultimately miss, are some of the simplest things in life.

I miss the autumn leaves, the first snow of the year, thunderstorms, the big sky, the clean air, the cornfields and the open spaces. I like the fact that there is only one freeway and that it isn’t even a freeway at all. To Nebraskans, it’s just I-80. I miss the electricity in the air during tornado warnings. I miss basements. For me, only by leaving and coming back to Nebraska could I experience all of these things and more with a child’s sense of wonderment.

I now realize that Nebraska – that sense of place and experience cannot be captured, packaged up, and tied with a bow. Maybe that’s what keeps bringing me back.

KL, Copyright 2007, Nebraska Life Magazine

They Kidnapped my APPLE BUTTER, Part II

Meet Delores (aka "Grama")
Be careful what you write, you don’t know who is reading. Luckily, the readers of the apple butter article have been remarkably responsive. A week ago, I got a letter from a
Nebraska Life
subscriber named Delores who had enjoyed the article to such a degree that she sent me a jar of Arbor Day Farm apple butter.

The ironic twist was that this extraordinarily generous (and well-read!) woman, Delores, started Grama’s, Inc. the company that makes and packages the very apple butter I bought in Nebraska City.

Delores started Grama’s, Inc., a company based in Lincoln, Nebraska, 25 years ago so that she could commercially make and market the jams, jellies, and fruit butters she remembers her own grandmother making. To purchase her exquisitely, sweet, and yummy apple butter visit Arbor Day Farm. Grama's, Inc. products are also available through Amazon (under Grama's, Inc gourmet foods.) However, I’d advise you put it in your checked luggage.

P.S. Thank You, Delores (aka "Grama"!)

They Kidnapped My APPLE BUTTER!

About this time last year, I was sloshing around in the rain with my grandmother and my mom at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City. We could’ve done it another day, but that’s the thing about short visits ~ before you’ve even arrived, you realize that time you haven’t even lived yet has already been eaten away.

The other part of it was my stubbornness. Blame it on my heavy German-Russian blood and my inherent pioneer spirit, but I was determined to go to Arbor Day Farm and I was going to do it that day.

What’s a little rain?

I just happened to drag both my mom and my grandmother into this little “Apple” daydream of mine.

For some reason in all of this, I’d become fixated on apple butter.

“Must buy apple butter in Nebraska City,” my mind kept telling me.

I think part of it was just my oddly growing nostalgia for all things Nebraskan, particularly the trees and the apples and the whole experience of autumn in the Midwest.

So, I was not happy when TSA Security at Eppley Airfield confiscated my apple butter, claiming that it fell into “gel or liquid” territory.

(Yeah, it also happens to be really, really good!)

However, I approach every setback as an opportunity to tell a great story later.

The kidnapping of my apple butter that cold, rainy Nebraska day has been recounted in a piece I wrote: Mishaps and Nebraska Mementos, published in this month’s Nebraska Life Magazine.