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July 08, 2016

A Do-It-Yourself Career

Actress Molly Hawkey is building a career one project at a time - often all by herself.

Melissa Byers

Molly Hawkey works a lot.

You may know her from such programs as last year’s Hollywood Reporter Oscar Roundtable, or perhaps the most recent season of The Bachelor. Or maybe not, since she wasn’t actually in them.

Hawkey, an up-and-coming actress, decided last Oscar season that it might be fun to edit herself into the Hollywood Reporter Oscar Roundtable and to post the result on YouTube. “I edited myself in. I was sitting right next to Julianne Moore, and it looks seamless. Not for a second did I think people would take it seriously. I put myself in Reese Witherspoon’s spot,” she says.

“And people really thought that I was in this Oscar Roundtable for my web series, and that I had been nominated.  I couldn’t believe it. Once you’re a minute into it, you can tell that it’s a joke.

"Then a lot of people thought that I had gotten all the actresses to do it with me. They still couldn’t tell that I was cut in. It was weird. Other people thought that the Hollywood Reporter hired me to do a joke on the actresses.  So, after that, I thought, 'I’ve got to keep cutting myself into things.'”

From there, it was a short step to doing it again for this season of The Bachelor.

“I think it was last season of the Bachelorette when I thought, ‘Ooh. I could cut myself into that when the next season comes out.’ And then I forgot all about it, but then when I saw the first promo [for The Bachelor], I thought ‘Let me just cut myself into this promo and see what happens.’

"I cut myself into the promo, as a joke, just for my friends to be silly, and I put the promo out. The promo is very, very subtle. Just really quick moments of me in there. And everybody thought I was on it.”

At that point, Hawkey realized that she could be a part of the whole season. “I did, and I can’t believe I did it. It was exhausting. I watched the show every week and put it [my edited episode] out the very next day.

"It was on Mondays, and I would stay up all night editing. I would get all the spoilers I could so I could shoot as much as I could in advance. Edit all night long until the next day and try to get them out by about 1:00 on Tuesday.  It was nuts. And then I got attention for it, and then I thought, ‘Oh. I guess I really have to keep doing this.’ So I did the whole season.“

She did all the work herself. “I had no idea I had it in me. I learned a lot from it. I did all the editing myself and a lot of the shooting. Anything that was in tripod, I did that by myself. And other stuff, I got amazing friends to help me out for free. So, basically, zero budget.”

Then the Television Academy made a rules change that allowed series like Hawkey’s to compete for an Emmy.

The new rule says: “potential entrants are defined as series with a minimum of six episodes running an average of 15 minutes or less per episode, exhibited over-the-air and/or via cable, satellite or internet.”

A friend whose job includes submitting shows for awards suggested that Hawkey submit her series.  Hawkey thought this would be the year to go for it. “I thought I’d better jump on this. Nobody knows it’s a category; maybe there won’t be much competition. Next year, there’s going to be tons.“

Although she liked the idea, she did face some hurdles. 

“I just thought, this is hilarious. But I also didn’t have $650 to make the two submissions. So I thought, wouldn’t it be hilarious to have an IndieGoGo campaign for such a small amount of money.

"So, I made a video for the IndieGoGo, and made some silly perks for my IndieGoGo, and posted it, and in the first day, I passed my goal and ended up making 250% of the goal. My goal was $650, and I made $1640. And that was all I needed, and with my extra money, of course, I made my bench ads. “

Those are the ads you see on benches all over Los Angeles for everything from bail bondsmen to TV series to real estate agents to PSAs for Smokey the Bear. Hawkey bought four bench ads that ran in various areas for about a month. “They crack me up. I didn’t know what the award process was like. It is interesting, the campaigning aspect of it, and how everybody’s backed by networks and it’s really interesting.”

Hawkey, of course, is not backed by anyone. In fact, her entire career has been mostly a do-it-yourself project. “I have a lot of plates spinning and a lot of little things I’m working on. I can’t really talk details because nothing is confirmed yet. I’m broke as hell, and trying to make one of these things work. Nothing concrete yet.

“I’m also in a documentary called The Pistol Shrimps, about my basketball team. I’m highly featured in it. They even recorded me doing my Bachelor stuff in it.

"It’s about my basketball team, and about women’s rec league basketball in Los Angeles. It’s really inspiring. It’s about women and camaraderie and having an outlet, a way to step away from the industry and step away from dating and looking pretty and just get out on the court and play basketball. It’s really fun.

“Even with all that buzz [from the Bachelor series], I wasn’t able to get a new agent or anything. It’s driving me crazy. All I want is to audition. I just want to act. I’m basically forcing myself on everybody.

"It’s funny. I’ve always found that people like what I do. But agents have always been skeptical of me. I guess I get it. I’m not your average person. But I’ve been here for 13 years, and I’ve never had the opportunities that I think I deserve. And I think I’d book some roles if I could get the auditions.

"Meanwhile, everybody’s really enjoying the silly stuff that I’m making. And I’m making it happen on my own because I have to. Yet, that’s still not enough evidence for an agent to pick up a 37-year-old pretty good looking funny girl.”

So, like many others, Hawkey has been making her own opportunities, which is more possible than it once was, thanks to the many new venues opening up, primarily online.

“I definitely think there are more opportunities for people in that way. Absolutely. There are stars who have been created just from their YouTube channels. I don’t understand sometimes why some YouTubers are so famous and how they have hundreds of thousands of followers and millions of views. Who knows?

"But it does seem that everything is so spread out. So, with YouTube, I think it might soon be getting to a point where it’s oversaturated with people doing it, and maybe this is the end of it feeling new. I think there are still opportunities, but it’s getting more saturated and harder to sift through everything.”

Even with the difficulties and stiff competition, Hawkey is not giving up, although there are days when it seems the wisest option. “I think what you have to do is to keep throwing stuff at the wall and hope that something sticks. For me, I’ve been making stuff online and I’ve been close, and people have liked them, getting close to being noticed, but not noticed.

"The Hollywood Reporter people sort of noticed, and they definitely loved it, that Roundtable I did. It was close, but it didn’t get picked up by any news outlets.

"What happened with The Bachelor and the reason that got noticed was because Buzzfeed posted about it. Suddenly, that video had 100,000 views.

"That first video had 100,000 views. The next week had 10,000, the week after that had 1000. And it was flat like that for the rest of the season. Everywhere I go, people are saying, ‘Molly, I’m so excited for you! You’re internet famous. You’ve gone viral.’ And I say, ‘Yeah… thank you. Kind of…It was a fun week.' That buzz was over in a week. But I couldn’t give up.

"So, if something sticks, run with it, baby! Don’t stop. Push as hard as you can. Milk it for all it’s worth. You don’t get that chance that often. So you just have to keep pushing and not give up.

"My not giving up hasn’t paid off yet, but I’m banking on it.“

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