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Sunset & Vine: Your Attitude IS Your Profession

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Hi Peeps! So, I recently was shooting on the San Andreas Fault in the middle of the high desert. Now, for me that is the definition of hell. Not the shooting, the location. I am a fair-skinned redhead from the northeast coast, the sun et moi = no bueno. When I left my place at Sunset & Vine it was 5:40 in the morning and already the temperatures were creeping into the 80’s … Where we were headed was expected to get up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit at peak.

The shoot was slated to go until after dark and it was an independent shoot in all it’s grandeur, needless to say, it was going to be a very long one. It was just myself and another actress that would be on camera the entire day so relief was going to be nada, but the script was superb and the team solid, and I was in it to win it. We were shooting in the middle of nowhere and driving somewhere for lunch, dinner and/or bathroom break was not an option as we had a many pages to squeeze in. We started late due to a minor blip of equipment malfunction (and this was because of the heat!) and that meant having a working lunch would be necessary.

CUT TO: 1:30 PM

It is now officially 116 degrees outside and the air conditioning in the “honey-wagon” or honey-car was beginning to prove useless. Lets just say, the make-up artist had her make-up bag in the cooler. A loud rattling call that was deemed to be “locust” sure sounded like what I imagined a rattlesnake to use as warning, and the breeze was… Oh wait, yeah no.

At this point in the shoot I had not sat down or been in shade since around seven in the morning and I started to crash, hard. I could physically feel my body starting to go down in a blaze of fire. I am not complaining about this by any means – no one had it any better including the director, camera crew, the poor fucker who was holding the boom in a very strategic manner throughout, ‘craft service’ – everyone was in the same boat.

The reason I just prefaced this article with all the above information is because I want to talk about Attitude, and how it really is everything.  

I had the choice of pushing myself to the point of passing out (which is what I started to do) and let the work suffer, or stop for a serious break of relief. This decision was really hard, really hard! I pride myself on my work ethic and the very last thing I ever want to be is “that actress or even that girl in general. If I am going to commit to a project it is a reflection of who I am as an artist one-hundred percent no matter how big or small the job is. Hence, I was doing my job full-on and properly – moment to moment with an intense emotional role, and it had reached a breaking point where the work would suffer if I did not take care of myself. So I did something I had never done in my professional career: I stopped.

I had worked with the director before on a another project and at this point the entire crew had respect for me as I was turning out solid work, and with a humble and respectful attitude. I was genuinely grateful for each and every one of them, and in reality they were ready to crash and burn as well.

CUT TO: 2:15 PM

Forty-five minutes later, and the peak of the heat out there, we started rolling again and the attitude and professionalism was as high as it has been all day from absolutely everyone and it is all because of attitude. Pure attitude. My point being, I could have been a twat or at least not have made an effort to rally the troops with high-energy, when I in fact had none. The result would have been anger and bitter disrespect from one and all. Instead, we all came back to that patch of desert and did great work, work that would have never been capable if we didn’t take care of ourselves as artists, but most importantly, work that would have never, ever happened if I did not call the shoot to stop without the right attitude.         

In any profession, the way one conducts themselves as a professional doesn’t matter in the least, if people do not feel respected or taken for granted. I had already secured this with my cast & crew before I called it to a halt. The result: We came back hydrated and rearing to go, as a united village creating a baby… And we slayed it!

CUT TO: 11:20 PM

I am dropped back outside of my place at Sunset & Vine with genuine smiles and hugs of exchanges of “awesome jobs” & “great work” from all because I had the right attitude.

That’s a wrap.

Tonya Cornelisse

About Tonya Cornelisse

Theatrically, Tonya has worked both on and Off-Broadway honing the stages of The Daryl Roth Theatre, The Cherry Lane, Labyrinth, The Public Theatre, E.S.T., Humana Festival, and many more. In Los Angeles: Sam Shepard's Buried Child at The Whitefire Theatre, IAMA Theatre Company. Tonya is a proud member of Ensemble Studio Theatre, where she can regularly be seen on stage in Los Angeles. Tonya has worked in over 30 films big & small including the upcoming THE VOYAGE OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE with Robert Downey Jr. and LOVE IS NOT LOVE.Other features: BENT, MOPE, GROW HOUSE, Nick Cassavetes’ YELLOW, PELÉ, CRAVE, & THE WOLVES OF SAVIN HILL. She garnered multiple awards from all around the world (including the BFI Award for Best Actress) for her performance in LIMINAL. Television shows include Catastrophe, Trial & Error, How To Get Away With Murder, Scandal, NCIS, Parks & Recreation, ER, Law & Order(s), The Wolfpack of Reseda and the series lead in two of FOX Searchlight’s Digital Webisodes including Crack Whore Galore & The Katie Kooter Show which she also created. In addition to her acting credits, Tonya has penned a number of screenplays, plays and short stories including Dog Lovers, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. She works extensively in Voice Over including Voice of Lexus & Lipton Tea. Tonya is also an award-winning Narrator: TONYA'S NARRATION PROFILE