Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Actor's Life: A Survival Guide | Jenna Fischer


I read this book in preparation for one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking days of my recent life: during the 2018 Tucson Festival of Books, I was assigned to be Jenna Fischer's personal author escort for 24 hours. I picked her up from the airport, took her to her hotel, and spent all of Saturday with her as we shuffled from signing to session to signing and back to the airport. People asked if I was her best friend, her publicist, or her personal assistant. I'm in the background of dozens of photos she's tagged in on Instagram, and dozens more are my own personal handiwork as I took pictures on hundreds of people's phones of them in the moments that they met her. It was, in short, a cool day. 

For those of you unfamiliar, the Tucson Festival of Books supports literacy efforts in southwest Arizona. It sees over 135,000 people every year during its two-day run. I volunteered over 760 hours with TFOB as an AmeriCorps volunteer my first two years of college and it is because of this experience that I was chosen to work with Jenna. Because of a general love of literature and a fermented responsibility to read the book of the woman I would be representing, I picked up THE ACTOR'S LIFE at the University of Arizona Bookstore. 

THE ACTOR'S LIFE: A SURVIVAL GUIDE is a book for aspiring actors. It's a how-to, a personal narrative, a gag reel and an overall good read regardless of whether or not you want to be an actor. But I cannot stress this enough: it is a survival guide. There are steps in this book that you'll never follow if acting isn't your passion, if acting doesn't set your soul on fire. I absolutely recommend this book to people who want to act, but it's still worth a buy if you're just a fan of Jenna's. 

I bought this book and then bought the audio book, available on Audible and read by Jenna herself. (Because I listened to the book in the car, I was quite used to having her voice fill that empty space beside me, and thus was comfortable driving her around and hanging out with her – I am proud to report that I was not too fan-girly and not too awkward about it. A little awkward. I accidentally spilled coffee on her. But she was super nice about it.) 

The book chronicles her acting career and provides insights that I think will appeal to people who are at a crossroads in their career, who need a kick in the ill-fitting dress pants to persevere. Unlike UNFILTERED, the memoir by actress Lily Collins, this book is not laden with cliché. It's specific and to-the-point. It's cheerful and honest. 

Jenna Fischer moved to Los Angeles, worked office jobs (which subsequently prepared her for her role as Pam) and faced myriad rejections. She was a part of shows that would never air. She got a job as an extra on a commercial for Universal Studios and had to ride the Jurassic Park water ride... for 12 hours. She lived in cramped places, had nameless roles, and suffered the necessary struggle for the modern actor. 

She is, ultimately, an immensely helpful resource for those looking to get involved in this world. 

(Also, she's really nice in person. Loves green tea.) 



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