Monday, December 31, 2007

Finally, it’s the martini shot - the last shot of the day.

Often times I hear “man, I can’t believe the year is over; it flew by!” I know I’ve said that in the past, but for me, this year didn’t go all that fast. I guess because I wasn’t having as much fun as usual; I had to brainstorm and dig deeper. Not as much fun, but I did a lot of work to my infrastructure – personally and professionally. I am such the work in progress and I’m very happy with where I’m headed.

For the last 6 or 7 years I’ve been home in Virginia Beach with family during the Christmas Holidays and New Years. Last year specifically was quite the interesting one – I’ve got photos to prove it! This year it’s New Year’s Eve and I’m home alone and I think it’s the best place to be. It wasn’t in the cards for me to go home this year and I’m really proud of the fact that I didn’t just go anyway – it just wasn’t the right thing to do. I actually went to sleep about 10pm, but my phone starting ringing with New Year’s wishes and I couldn’t get back to sleep so I went for a bike ride up to the Sunset strip around 12:30am. Looking back, I can’t believe I actually used to work up there 5-6 nights/mornings a week. Times change I guess.

Sure I missed my family, but I’ve spent about 6 weeks a year at home for the last several years and I knew eventually something would change. I’m quite proud of being able to take that much time off as an actor and the fact that I’m smart enough to do it. I NEED my time away to detox from LA. I knew when I was home this past Summer that there was a good chance I wouldn’t make it home this holiday season. With all of the potential turmoil in the business i.e. WGA, DGA, SAG/AFTRA contract expirations I felt it was smart to play things “close to the vest”. That in itself makes me feel great. Why? Well, it solidifies the fact that this is my career. These negotiations, or lack of, affect me directly. This is what I do for a living – I have the scars to prove it!

One of the benefits of not going home was not having the anxiety of wondering if I was going to have to change plane tickets in case of booking a job. I’ve had that happen a few times and it’s nerve racking and expensive. I normally would have been flying during the time that the “WaMu” commercials were shooting. Things work out the way they are supposed to – even if we don’t like it.

So to that I say CUT! Check the gate! Gate’s Clear! That’s a wrap on Stephon!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wow…2007. I’m not sorry to see it end. This has, without question, been one of the most challenging years of my life. Challenge, after challenge, after challenge and so on…and it continues. You have no idea how difficult it’s been for me – trust me. But I have to say “I ain’t no punk mofo! I’m facing it head-on!

A couple of weeks ago a buddy shared with me that he felt I act as though I rarely work in the business. I was a little surprised by him saying that, but after a while I saw where he was coming from. I mean its all relative really to what you expect and from day one I expected to work and make a living as a professional in this business.

I’ve seen hundreds of actor resumes over the last couple of months and I’ve come to the conclusion that he may be right…maybe I am a little hard on myself. I’m definitely a “working actor” with a track record that goes back more than 10 years. It could be because I don’t compare my journey to others. I don’t know. Maybe I need to give myself a break…maybe.

Even one of my agents told me that she was happy with my progress in ‘07. I was actually surprised to hear that…not sure why. I think the smart thing is to trust them on this since they’ve seen a lot more than I have in a global sense as far as actors’ careers go. Yeah, I’ll trust them, but I won’t be any less hungry to move forward.

Other than my younger brothers; nobody really knows what I’ve been experiencing – maybe one other person. The reason for that is that my outlook on things, for some reason, is constantly hard to understand. Of course it doesn’t seem hard to follow to me, but I think I confuse people. I have a way of over complicated things. More often than not others will give you advice or opinions from “their point of view” and not truly try to walk in your shoes to see where you are coming from. This isn’t malicious; it’s very natural that we do it. Ironically, it’s one of the major things that has enabled me to get ahead in the business - understanding why others do the things they do – actually I’m fascinated with it.

Anyway, the magic with my brothers is that they’re very patient with me and give me the time I need to explain my point of view. They know from experience that if they hear me out and truly absorb the finer points of whatever it is I’m saying it’ll make sense. They may not agree, but it’s worthy of hearing nonetheless.

At times, during the year, it felt that it would have been easier to just give in; especially because there are so many other things I feel I can do well. I could do “the 9-5 thing” and excel at it – I wouldn’t be an average employee. Even though there is much more I plan to do in the entertainment business I could quit today and totally feel like a success.

It’s been such a mind-twisting experience and I hope I don’t have to go through it again anytime soon. The crazy thing is that I’ve smiled through most of it. I’m not sure why. I think because deep-down I know it’s all for a reason – a good reason; a great reason. My “logically-zen” mind has guided me up to this point and it will get me through to the other side onto new challenges I’m sure.

Further weird is that through all of the stuff I’ve been experiencing I’m settled with the notion of that I’ll continue to be doing this as a profession for many years to come. That is a good thing for my psyche because I haven’t always felt that – it gives me a foundation.

My heart wants to be in a much more suburban setting, but I’ll have to make Los Angeles work for me. Other than work opportunities there is really no benefit for me to be in “the big city”. I’ve been in LA and/or New York for the last 13 years; “been there, done that”. I don’t need to be on the cutting edge of anything; it’s too exhausting and I’ve never been good at “keeping up with the Jones”. I’ve stopped listening to the radio in my car and have cut down on television news. I’ve been an AM talk radio junkie since high school so that’s a huge step for me. I used to sleep with my radio under my pillow and I’d absorb information in my sleep – at 16-17 years old! I’ve found some podcasts that quench my thirst for learning and hearing interesting things without the sensational “rah-rah” of news as a product. I’m even amazed at how much time I’ve spent in my car in complete silence. It has given me time to think about what has happened and also what needs to happen.

I’m in a great place in my career and I recognize that, but there is more to life than a commercial booking or an episodic airing. I don’t dream of being on the red carpet with people screaming my name; frankly that makes me really nervous. I think in ’08 I wanna take that ceramics class, that typing class, maybe English or a writing class – a dance class might be fun too. Make no mistake I love acting and I get a magical feel every time I get on-set and plan to be on a many different sets next year.

Speaking of writing; I wonder how long I’ll continue to write this blog. For some reason it crosses my mind from time to time. I’m not sure why; I’m just curious as to what would be the circumstances of why I would stop writing. It’s definitely something I enjoy doing; I just wish I wrote better and typed faster. I also wish I was writing back when I lived in New York. Often times I feel like I’m writing it for my kids to read one day; decades down the line. I would have LOVED to have had something like this to read about my father during a certain period in his life. Maybe I’d understand him better and have some sort of relationship with him.

I hope this doesn’t sound like 2007 has been a terrible year – it hasn’t. I’ve just had enough of “some” what it has been – whatever that is. I’m only human and I can only take so much at one time. One thing that I know it’s been is “necessary”. Yes. Everything that has happened has been necessary and I believe that with all of my heart. It has forced me to think deeper and harder when I thought I couldn’t think deeper or harder. It has made me become my own think tank to move forward and I’m thrilled with how things are developing. It’s been a transitional year.

The funny thing is that I was feeling really fantastic before booking the “WaMu” job. I’m still surprised by the set of circumstances in which it all came about and at the same time I’m not surprised in the least. I mean, it’s not any different than going to Japan for a job from a drop-off or working with multi-time Oscar winners Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks also from a drop-off. Or being hired for a job in Spain – no callback, directly off tape. It’s not any different than having my first audition less than 24 hours after arriving in LA or getting both of my agents from a mailing and still being happily represented by them after nearly 10 years. It’s not any different than being hired by Oscar winning director Steven Soderbergh for “Oceans’ Twelve” and “Ocean’s Thirteen” – and not getting to shoot either one of them. How many people can say that? I own these stories and many more and I’m proud of each and every one of them.

The consulting has been quite rewarding too and I’ve seen some clients get agents and jobs and just generally move forward; but I wish everyone would get immediate results because I’ve met so many talented, dedicated performers that just wanna get a chance to work. It’s been especially thrilling to watch “The Perfect Storm” client move forward in her career. After booking the pilot I see many more great things in the very near future for her.

Without question, one of the most thrilling accomplishments for me this year is that I earned my 10th SAG pension credit – which means I am a vested member of the Screen Actor’s Guild and eligible for a pension anytime after the age of 55. I earned 10 pension credits in just 11 years; it was definitely a goal of mine from first joining SAG. I earned medical coverage after my first year in SAG and have maintained it continuously.

I’ve always paid attention to the inner workings of SAG because, as a performer, it can be more difficult to look out for your long-term future. I don’t pretend to understand all of the politics and stuff, but attending the meetings and reading the literature over the years has really helped. No, SAG isn’t perfect and it especially irritates me that SAG leases office space and doesn’t own its own building after 75 years – don’t get me started. At any rate, SAG has been good to me and after this year I have a new found appreciation and respect for them.

So with all that I’ve written; I say bring ’08 on. I’m ready!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Physically, I’m in serious recovery mode after working this week, I’m unbelievably sore. My entire body is aching; from my neck to my toes. BUT I gotta keep movin’ forward. First up is a phone call to my commercial agency to see if I can get in for callbacks for the audition I couldn’t make yesterday while shooting. Part of me believes that it’s really okay that I missed it because of the conflict category.

Well, more accurately, it doesn’t have any conflicts because it’s an “internet only” run. The thing is that it’s in a “category” I’m a little protective of – a category I’ve worked in before and made good money in. Plus, the director for those spots doesn’t usually have callbacks – so you start a second base. Maybe not the smartest reason, but it’s what I’m thinking. I mean, if they agree to let me go to callbacks I’ll definitely, but I’m not going to push the issue.

Next is an email to my commercial agent who handled the booking detailing my exact hours for each day of work – including the 3rd audition, the 6 and ½ hour fitting, the forced work call and the stunt bump. I have to keep track of this stuff. I recently had a little situation concerning a job I did for Fox Studios. It was nothing too major, but several hundred dollars of which I get 90%. I handled it directly; on my own.

The assistant at the agency called back to let me know that the casting office will bring me in “if” they decide to see anyone on a first call at callbacks – didn’t sound promising, but that’s okay.

Now, I drive over to my commercial agency to meet the two new assistants in the commercial department. Both of current assistants are moving on to new opportunities more in line with their career aspirations. They’ve been great and I wish them the best and I want the new crew to know who I am in 3-D. While there I discussed the shoot with my agent. She explained how the pay works when doing multiple spots in multiple days and gave me a few other tidbits of good news about the commercial.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Shooting: "WaMu" @ Sunset-Gower Studios. For me, the moment of truth arrived at 9am on Stage 7. I had to deliver the goods and to be honest; I was nervous. I didn't think I would straight up fail; I just didn't want to be the weak link.

So I check-in with the 2nd AD and get nourishment in the form of breakfast. I wanted French toast, but I didn't want to take a chance on feeling “all blah” from the sugary syrup.

About an hour later I'm finishing make-up and called to wardrobe. I didn't totally know what to expect as far as my costume because they were redoing my top and altering the pants.

Yesterday, when I tried on the pants, I was wearing boxer briefs. Since the pants are so tight, things got kinda bunched up under there. So the wardrobe person suggested I wear a thong or go bare back for the shoot. WHAT!?!?! Thong-th-th-th-THONG?!? I don’t know about that. I am definitely not going commando or bare back, the thong-th-th-th thong….I admittedly thought about it. Hey, it would have been part of the job AND it would’ve given me and my brothers something to laugh about. THAT, in itself is worth it.

Anyway, I elected to just wear brief underwear….and bring a back-up pair that I could cut into a thong-th-th-th-thong if my “panty lines” were showing. What the heck have I gotten myself into? So I tried on the top and it fit like a glove. I looked in the mirror and was like “OH SNAP!!” I felt like a freakin’ starrah, LOL! …until I looked down and saw the “snap-crotch” dealio hanging in the breeze. Not this again…yup I reached down and snapped myself up. I just shook my head.

Now for the pants. OMG!! They were SO tight after being altered, they actually made the crotch tighter. A brother had NO room down there…none. I felt asexual. There was no way I’d be able to fit my David Lee Roth “bulge sock” in there now…ya know how rock-stars do it. Whatever….

So I get them zipped and snapped up and …oh sh*t I look kinda aiight!!! I mean I can really wear this get-up. I turn around to check my backside in the mirror to see if there are any panty lines…butta! I FEEL GOOD! I’m tellin’ ya; this suit was fo real!!! Flare legged pants, V-neck, tight sleeves…and accented in rhinestones!!! I’m ready. Let’s not forget that I’m still in the dressing room…by myself.

LOL! Now it’s time to walk from stage 8 where we filmed the bank stuff to stage 7 where the dance sequence was to be shot. This meant walking past normal people while, basically, wearing a clown suit. I must admit it felt a little weird at first. I now have an understanding when women tie sweaters or jackets around their waist so their a** isn’t completely on display for men to google at. At least that’s why I think they do it. For the record, I’ve never once turned back and looked at a woman and wondered what was under the jacket tied around her waist…never. I wouldn’t do that…that would be so wrong of me. What woman, in her right mind, would want a man to wonder what was under the jacket around her waist?

The walk to Stage 7 took, what seemed, an eternity, but I made it. I got the once over, from the directors, Will & Josh, the creative team and the crew. Everybody seemed very happy with how the costume came out. The wardrobe person asked what I was wearing underneath…I just smiled. So I linked up with the choreographer, Eboni Nichols, for some warm ups to get in the space to perform. My wife showed up looking fabulous in her dress and we were ready to rehearse.

My mind was racing a mile a minute. What a minute – “A mile a minute?” I’ve been saying that for years, but what does it really mean? That’s only 60 miles an hour. My mind was racing at least 150 miles an hour. So, here we go; my mind was racing “2.5 miles a minute” as we set up for the first dry run. I do my dance move and my wife and I come together for the lift. It doesn’t go so great, but it’s not bad for the first one…to get us in the mood. Will comes out from the video village to give notes and we go at it again – better, but still not there.

About now we starting actually filming, getting notes, filming, getting notes, etc. Obviously, my wife was rigged in a harness under her dress, but there was definitely some lifting on my part involved. Plus, the moves were super complicated in order to sell it. Part of the joke was the fact that I am a little guy and my wife is a larger woman. That coupled with the fact that we are running together for me to lift her in this dance sequence was challenging to say the least. Stay tuned.

Between camera set-ups I checked my voicemail and my agent had called with a last minute commercial audition for this afternoon. I don’t think I’ll be able to make it, but I’ll keep it in the back on my head. I love that about them; even though I’m working they are still trying find new work opportunities for me. We are on the same page with that sort of thing. On the day that I had a 1pm call time I let them know I was available from 10am until 12 noon for appointments. Gotta run a tight ship.

The really important thing for me to do was to get a good grip on her thighs to support her. Much easier said than done; the material of her dress was so slippery that my hands kept sliding. On most every take I would get a face full of rhinestones from her dress, breasts from her chest or something hard from the rigging apparatus underneath her dress…or a knee. Trust me; I was earning my stunt pay bump.

Quiet on the set! We’re Rolling! Speed! Action Eboni! 5-6-7-8 and 1…

My wife, Shante, does her spin…On the other end of the stage Stephon does his “cool dancer guy” move. Shante begins to move toward her loving husband in the center of the stage; Stephon does the same.

It was around this time that my life went into slow motions. I was determined to “grab those thighs with meaning” and get it right this time. My game-face was on and I was mid-stride coming toward my loving wife. Still in slow motions; I went low for the perfect grab and that was when I felt rhinestones, flesh, chest, breasts, my glasses become one with my face. Right about then is when I saw the white light. The sound of my neck cracking seem to go on forever. At this point I was standing completely straight-up getting ready to fall completely straight down. I instinctively grabbed onto her as the birds started chirping and flying around my head. I just held onto her because otherwise I was would fell the eff out right on the stage. My a** was Dazed and Confused fo real!!!

Everything shut down for a moment while I sat and gathered my bearings. I was twisted. Will came over to check on me and said that, funny enough, until the collision that that was the best take of all. Still dazed; I laughed and said “At least I know where I need to be now”. I chilled for another 5-7 minutes and was ready to work again.

It reminded me of an incident several years ago on a shoot. This acting/stunt stuff ain’t easy kids.

Back to the task at hand; things started to come together. I felt better with each take and I eventually heard that great phrase, “We’re moving on!” YES! I did it! I delivered the goods. But I wasn’t totally finished; there was a little more dancing to come.

I have to tell you; I really felt like a performer while doing this. I mean, my wife had pretty dress on which was slightly odd, but what I was wearing was out of this world. I became completely comfortable in my costume and my work; not self conscious at all – no jacket around my waist! I even had one of the female crew members tell me that I had really “nice buns”! WHAT!!!! I couldn’t believe it! Now that I think about it I’ve been told that before, but I never took it seriously. Oh sh*t. Watch out for Stephon in the ’08 – professionally and personally. “Nice buns” get women all kinds of attention – for better or worse.…I wonder what it can do for Stephon…

Thankfully, the one hour lunch was upon us. I felt great, ate, read and relaxed because I knew my little dancing part was to be filmed soon. I went back to the stage early to get warmed up and ready. The dance moves were constantly changing so me, not being a dancer, really had to be on my toes.

We shot two different versions of my dance moves; one for each commercial and it went well I think. With that, I was wrapped for the shoot. I got back in my street clothes and the PA who walked me back to set to sign out didn’t even recognize me once I got swagger back. No more rhinestones, no more crotch snaps!

I didn’t make it to the audition that my agent called about earlier; I’ll try to get into callbacks tomorrow. But I will be able to make it to my training tonight; I’m really tired and sore, but I gotta do what I gotta do…I even did a couple of drop-offs before leaving the lot.

The screen on my digital camera finally broke so I didn’t get any great photos like usual, but hopefully a few will be sent to me.

Ironically, I auditioned for and had a callback for the last “WaMu” campaign back in February ’06. This isn’t a campaign, but it’s a great feeling to book something – especially something I didn’t even have an appointment for.

I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m still in complete amazement that these new strategies have paid dividends in such a direct way and in such quick fashion.
P.S. Everyday, including the last day I left the set and forgot to return the prop wedding band I was wearing. It looks okay on my hand - maybe I'll continue to wear it. If I only could of kept my dancing costume! It would have been perfect for Halloween in West Hollywood.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Shooting: "WaMu" @ Sunset-Gower Studios. Today I had my first experience with ''motion capture". I can't really explain what it is, but it's very tedious and specific work. "My "wife" had the bulk of the work to do; so I was able to largely observe and learn.

I also tried on my custom dancer costume and let me tell you; I felt like a star! The top was different than yesterday; this one had the built-in underwear thing going on, but no snaps because it wasn't completely finished. Since it didn't have the crotch closure thingamajig the wardrobe person had to fasten it with a safety pin. Yeah, it was interesting having a woman down there...around the family jewels...with a saftey pin in her hand.

Next up - the pants. The pants were so snug that they felt like a second skin. They were made out of a stretchy cotton which made them pretty comfortable.

They took measurements of both garments and decided to alter the pants and remake the shirt entirely.

Afterwards, I was reintroduced to Eboni, the choreographer from the first callback. Oh sh*t, it was time bust-a-move! While we worked on some semi-fancy footwork "my wife" was being prepared to fly in the rig.

There was a professional stunt person working with her so I mostly watched and tried to get a feel for what was going to happen tomorrow. Eventually, one of the directors came to the stage and we showed him what were working on. I admittedly got a little nervous with my dance moves, but he got the idea. I also practiced lifting "my wife" in the rigging and I have to tell you I have my work cut out for me. It's just really complicated.

Shortly afterwards I was released for the day. Somehow, some way I have to deliver the goods tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Shooting: “WaMu” @ Sunset-Gower Studios. My 1pm call led me straight to a one hour, catered lunch. Nice way to start the afternoon. One of the first people I saw was my “wife” in the spot. The finally made the decision after we left last night. I still feel for the other young lady who didn’t get the spot, but I’m sure she’ll get something else.

There was a lot going on today; they were shooting parts of 3 different spots. It ended up being about 5-6 hours later before I started shooting any of my stuff.

The directors of the commercials are the team of Speck & Gordon. It’s the first time I’ve worked with two directors before. I watched their directing reel and found out that they directed some of the Geico Caveman commercials. I LOVE those commercials; I even have two T-shirts in honor of them. I normally wear the shirts and there was a great chance that I would have naturally worn one of them on 1 of the 4 days of work. After I was aware of the connection I felt a little weird. I didn’t want to NOT wear them, but I also didn’t wanna come off as weird. I figured, “hey, it’s organic, I have these shirts for a reason”. So I wore one of them; I had my jacket on so you couldn’t really read what they shirt said. Funny, enough as I was walking into the wardrobe room I ran smack into one of the directors; like almost face-to-face, and he saw my shirt, opened my jacket and read it. It was pretty funny because he had never seen that particular shirt before.

The shooting went well; I think they got all of what they needed and were happy with the performances. My call tomorrow is a crisp 7:30am for motion capture, rehearsal for dance and teaching me to work with rigging for my “wife”. Since we have less than a 12 hour turnaround for our call in the morning we will get an extra fee - I guess I should go to bed.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Audition: “Lowe’s” @ Ross Lacy Casting. Ugh! I don’t know how this one went. I’m really working on listening and interpreting at a higher level in my auditions. So far, I’m getting mixed results. In this one I so obviously missed one of the major directions that screamed “he’s an also ran”. That’s not were I want to be. Don’t get me wrong I’ve booked enough jobs to be convinced that I know what I’m doing, but I think I can know “more of what I’m doing” – and get better results.

The session director was kind enough to give me another shot at it, but I shouldn’t have needed that, at least not for that reason. I probably wasn’t as bad as I thought, but still, there is a lot of room for improvement. That said; it wouldn’t surprise me at all if I get a callback.

Audition: “Titleist” @ Pop Casting. Since I have my fitting for “WaMu” today I decided to try to go to this audition about 3 hours early so I won’t end up having an anxiety ridden afternoon. There was quite a bit of copy for this one that I had been working on since last night, but I think I had a pretty good handle on it. So I arrive at the facility and I noticed there were only women there. I figure I was out of category and I would need to return at my correct appointment time. I explained to the CD that I was early, but she said “no problem, go ahead and sign-in”. So I signed-in and began working on my copy.

A few minutes later the other CD partner in the room announced that we really needed to have the lines down because this particular director likes for an actor to tell a story and not be held up by not knowing the lines. “Cool, no problem” I thought. So I went outside so I could work at full volume.

After a moment they were calling my name to go in the room and I felt ready. I was paired with this beautiful woman portraying my wife who I had auditioned with before (she seemed like she’d be a cool wife in real life too….) Anyway, so we both slate our name and they explain how it’s to be read. During this time I glanced at the copy on the board and it didn’t look the same as what I had been rehearsing.

Oh Sh*t! It’s NOT the same copy! I am, in fact, out of category. So the CD is just getting ready to say “Action!”, and I’m seeing this piece of wall-to-wall copy for the very first time. At that point I had to stop and tell her I was early because I have a fitting to go to. I explained that I was told by the other CD partner it was okay to be early and she was cool about it.

I was already slated on the tape so they kinda needed to just get me up to speed. I’m apologizing like crazy while trying to get 25 seconds of copy down – NOW! I started to warm it up and they all seemed very impressed with how quickly I was picking it up. I was not impressed at all, but they made me feel like a pro so I went with it. We laid it down the first time and it went okay; the CD seemed genuinely happy. She gave me a little more direction and we did it again. It was all good and my wife…I mean the beautiful African-American actress who was portraying wife…continued to praise my performance as we went to our cars. Whew!

Fitting: “WaMu” @ Sunset-Gower. I arrived at the studio just in time for my fitting, but you know how Hollywood usually works – hurry up and wait. It was no problem for me because I had gotten the important things I needed to get done today finished. I was there for more than an hour before I even tried on my first garment. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a fitting for more than the allotted hour. Of course, being a guy, it’s usually pretty simple.

Two hours pass and I’m trying on stuff, getting Polaroid’s taken, digital stills taken and then I wait for 30 minutes. It was like wash, rinse, repeat. Wait a minute, I need to back up, myself and someone from the wardrobe department didn’t get off on such a great foot. You see, I’m usually a super nice guy, but I don’t like to be disrespected. Don’t get it twisted, I can be a straight-up asshole if needed and it was brought out of me for a brief period of time. I’m proud of that side of me and I have no problem using it if I need to. I treat people with respect and I demand that in return.

I remember back when I first moved to New York; I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to handle myself with the “City Slickers”. I didn’t want to get pushed around, but I was just a Southern kid from the ‘burbs. I made it through New York just fine; my more stern side came out whenever I needed it. I was proud of that because deep down I’m a bit of a pleaser.

Anyway, the fact that I was there for so long turned out to be a good thing because it made the time I had to “fight fire with fire” seem shorter. I was also wondering about the second commercial I was supposed to be doing. There was absolutely no evidence that I could uncover that I was doing two spots – other than my agent telling me so; and my agent is on her game so I knew there had to be something to it.

By this time “my wife” from the 3rd audition arrived for wardrobe. I was happy to see her because she was nice and so patient and helpful to me. A little while later while chatting with her I found out that she hadn’t been actually cast yet, but was technically doing a wardrobe, hair and make-up test – a type of “hold”, very different than “an avail”. This was her 6th time coming in for this job. She informed me that “another wife” was there at the studio as well and they were being kept totally separate. I wasn’t sure who the other “wife” was, but I was really glad that I was officially cast and wasn’t going through that madness.

4 ½ hours later –

I’m still at the studio and yes, it’s confirmed that I’m shooting two spots – I was given the copy for both. By this time I’ve met producers, clients, both directors, etc. I couldn’t imagine I’d be at the fitting for 4 ½ hours, but I wasn’t complaining – other than being a little chilly. The craft services table had some of the best strawberries I’d tasted in a long time.

I got a glimpse of the “other wife”; she was the sweetheart I rehearsed with at the first callback. I’d love to work with either one of them and hate to think that one of them is going to get the news that in a couple of hours that “you’ve been released…”. Again, I’ve experienced that enough times and I’m glad it’s not me.

All the clothing I had been trying on for hours was for the first part of the commercial. After that was all set the wardrobe assistant gave me the shirt for the dance part. Oh Sh*t. I thought it was a woman’s blouse at first. I went to put it on and I saw that it had a crotch with snaps. WHAT!?!? Yeah! So I’m looking down at the dangling snaps and I felt like I was crossing a line that would threaten my manhood. Do I snap it up or do I not snap it up? That was a no-brainer. I snapped that mofo up like I was one of The Nicholas Brothers! Yeah! I felt really weird, but I also all of the sudden felt like I could dance my ass off. Long live my snapped up crotch!

Another hour later –

I’ve been here since noon and it’s now 5:35pm and I just got released. Wow. So I got back into my street clothes, signed out and was just grabbing my bag to hit the door when the 2nd AD informs me that I need to stay longer. A few minutes later they released one of “my wives” and told her that she should get the call if she’s booked in 90 minutes. Ugh! I’m so glad it’s not me! I have a feeling I know which one they are going to go with….guess I’ll know tomorrow afternoon at 1pm.

After being at the Studio from noon until 6:20pm I was finally released. What a day; a very productive and profitable day.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Okay so today is the day I should find out whether I’m book or not on the “WaMu” commercial. The “Texas Lottery” one may be a couple of more days since it doesn’t start shooting until later next week.

I felt really good about how it went yesterday so hopefully I won’t get that call that says, “Sorry Stephon, but you’ve been released from XXXX. We’ll get’em next time”. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve gotten that call? Too many times, but I remain positive that I’ll strike again.

So at 10:51 this morning my cell phone rings the familiar “commercial agency ringtone” which is the UB40 classic “Red Red Wine”. The ringer means celebration to me in the upbeat world of commercials…and, of course, my love of red wine. Nothing like a great bottle of Merlot with dinner. Right?

By contrast my “theatrical agency ringtone” is “Enter Sandman” by Metallica signifying the potential drama of the theatrical world. I love that song; especially the drums. Another favorite for a ringtone is Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together”. I don’t really have a place for it right now – might have to work on that, plus I don’t pay for ringtones.

So the song “red red wine” finishes playing and I retrieve the voicemail expecting the “yay” or “nay”. I get neither. What I get is the news that they want to see me a third time – today, in a couple of hours. Cool. I’ll be ready.

So, again, I decided to walk to the casting office instead of driving. This time I walked with the spirit of a dancer. I wish I could have seen my version of carrying myself like a dancer. I’m sure it was funny because I don’t have the poise and posture of a dancer. BUT I can fake it - sorta.

I arrive at the casting facility and there are only 3 actors there – including me...and one of them was a woman. It was her 4th time auditioning. The way it looked to me was that it was down to me and the other guy for the husband role – at least that’s what I thought. The session director had notes for he and I; I’m assuming they were from the director. They weren’t notes on the casting log; they were written on lined paper in pencil. For some reason that was comforting to me.

Actually, there are two directors on this spot. The notes for the other actor were about the scene part and my notes were to “have more fun” on the dance part. I could immediately see that the other actor was a much better dancer than I.

He went in first and I practiced “having more fun” by myself in the lobby. I guess you could say I practiced “Dancing With Myself”. After a while it was my turn and I was, at least, ready to have fun, but I’m just not that good of a dancer.

No one from the creative team was in attendance; it was just the session director, my partner and myself.

Thankfully, “the wife” was nice, willing and very patient with me. Also, the session director was a former dancer and able to give me tips too.

…forgive me, but I’m leaving some details out…

The phone rang about three times while we were running through it before taping the performance; that gave me more time to practice. Then we put it on tape twice. From the reactions from the session director it seemed he was really happy with the results.

I’m not sure if the creative team were watching live via some connection. I don’t think so, but you never know. But I’ll tell you this, I got word I was booked from the casting office within 60 seconds of finishing the audition. Seriously, maybe 45 seconds.

…leaving out a little more…

So I walked home feeling really great. I would’ve felt great anyway, because I did the best I could. The bigger reason I felt great is that the main reason I booked is because of the new strategies I’m implementing. The drop-off thing was phenomenal for me, but I needed to shift things in order to move forward. I’ll still do drops, but they’ll play a different role. And get this, I wasn’t even submitted on this – according to the notice I was 3 inches to tall.

Forty-five minutes later my agent called with the official booking. First, I find out that this booking effectively takes me out of the running for the “Texas Lottery” spot because “WaMu” added the extra day. Honestly, the “WaMu” job has much more potential financially and exposure-wise. Nevertheless, I was really hoping to go to Dallas and also really wanted to finally book a job at Craig Colvin’s office, but it wasn’t meant to be – this time. I also really wanted to finally book a job at Craig Colvin’s office.

Funny, I was just talking about being “on hold” vs. being “on avail”. If I was “on hold” for “Texas Lottery” it could have been a very different ending to this story.

Oh yeah, something else she told me was that it’s 2 commercials I am booked on for “WaMu”. I have no idea what the other one is.

This is the way my new plan is supposed to work “in theory”, but it’s even surreal to me that I’ve already seen concrete results. I’m laying the groundwork for ’08. Bring it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Callback: “WaMu” @ Ross Lacy Casting. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for this one. I figured I’d be doing my flawless dance moves again, but this time with an actual woman instead of by myself.

I decided to walk to the casting office from my apartment so I’d be loose and ready do my thing. I got there at 10am, signed in and scanned the lobby to see who I might be paired up with.

Part of the funny in the spot is that the husband is really small and the wife is a “woman of generous size”. Sure, I’m a little guy, but I’m not tiny by any means. Both of the other guys I auditioned with at the first read were significantly shorter than me, but I wasn’t going to worry about that.

So I was eventually paired with this sexy, really attractive “large and in charge” woman – a lot larger than me – a lot sexier too. I’m not a good dancer so I needed all the help I could get and we decided to practice before going in together.

One of the guys who had already gone in was kind enough to teach us the step we’d be doing together. I was rusty, but trying to get the hang of it and not take it too seriously. Sista girl was making it happen and let me know that I was wack as hell – whatever.

Anyway, a moment later the choreographer came and paired us up again – this time with different people. My new partner was older, larger, a better dancer and very serious. I’m funny, but not that serious – this could be trouble. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work between us. We practiced and I sucked, but I was really trying. I just needed a bit more time to relax into the steps.

I probably weighed half as much as she did and I think she was taller than me too; so I couldn’t really push her around too much. By the last rehearsal I was starting to “feel it” and actually have fun.

A few moments later we were in the audition room ready to slate our names. I could see how we looked together on the monitor in the one way glass and just the sight of us was hilarious. The dialogue part of the audition went really well; I didn’t do too much and fall into trap of “needing too act”.

Now the dance part. I felt kinda ready, but I was still shaky. Right before we started our 8 count I got all frisky and funny. I HAD ARRIVED!!!!

At this point my life went into slow motions. A smirk somehow found its way to my face and I said, under my breath; “come to me baby!” In one blissful moment our hands met perfectly. Then, my life, still in slow motions, went cold - I began to turn – THE WRONG FREAKIN WAY!!!!! Noooooo!!!! Yes!

Go back – about five minutes earlier when I said that I weighed about half as much as her. Sistergirl MUSCLED my narrow ass back around in the correct direction and with that we were off to the races. She probably couldn’t even tell that my dainty ass was going the wrong way. The rest was lovely and we ended with a bang. I felt pretty good and she felt great. The director seemed very happy too. She complimented me on the way out and said I was funny and wonderful. I told her she was “wonderfuller”. So that was that and I walked home with a smile on my face.

Two hours later @ 12:40 I got a call saying I was on avail for the spot. Great! My agent informed them of the 17th, 18th & 19th slightly conflicted with the dates of the “Texas Lottery” spot which are in the 19th, 20th & 21st. They seemed pretty confident that I could do both spots if I booked them.

Two more hours later my agent calls saying that “WaMu” added the 20th to the shoot dates. They also asked that if I had to make a decision which one I would prefer to do. My answer “both of them”, lol!

Later, I stopped by my agents’ office and spoke to everyone and they said that the CD of “Texas Lottery” spot was being really cool about the potential conflicting situation. That’s great because these are the two commercial casting directors that call me in the most frequently. I would love to book both spots and it’s very possible.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Audition: "Bud Light" @ Alyson Horn Casting. This one was fun and I think I'm right for it. I’m going through an interesting transition for commercial auditioning and it’s going to take some getting used to. Nevertheless, I think this one went well.

Not that I think it really matters, but I remembered to cross out the last line on my resume that says "I've never had alcohol in my life". Why give them a reason to not call me back for the “Budweiser” commercial?

In the second part of the audition I was to sit at a bar with a beer in hand. That always feel so weird to me because I feel that it’s obvious I’ve never drank a beer before. I try to hold it like “one of the boys”, but it feels so foreign to me. Sometimes I wish I drank alcohol ‘cause it looks so damn cool. Ya know, yell to your roommate “bring back some cold Bud Light!”…maybe not since I don’t have a roommate. Drinking beer might be one of those things that I never experience...

After leaving the audition I figure I'd call my commercial agency to see if I can go straight to callbacks for the audition I missed yesterday. I figured it was a long shot, but worth a try - what do I have to lose? The assistant at the agency said he’ll call me right back and 7 minutes later he delivered the good news. Cool, I got an appointment for the callbacks this afternoon.

Callback: “Texas Lottery” @ Craig Colvin Casting. It went great! At least I think it went great. The spot is pretty funny too. I have never booked for this office, but I have a decent callback/avail ratio. We’ll see what happens.

Great! A couple of hours later I get the call that I’m on avail for the “Texas Lottery” spot. Then, shortly after that I get word that I have a callback for the “WaMu” spot tomorrow morning.

This could get interesting – an avail for “Texas Lottery” and a callback for “WaMu” with possible travel and conflicting dates. I’ve already accepted the avail, but an avail is a courtesy and not a legal, binding contract. My availability can change at any time. I’m really just thinking out loud because I haven’t even gone to the “WaMu” callback yet, but being a veteran of sticky situations I know how quickly things can get - sticky.

I bring this up because often times I hear actors say “I’m on hold for a commercial” which is almost never the case. More correctly, they are on avail. A “hold” and “an avail” are two totally different things. Truly being “on hold” is akin to being on the payroll – an “avail” is not.

I explained this to my “Perfect Storm” client who recently booked two weeks on a pilot. The first week she was only scheduled to work one day, but I told her she is in “first position” to that production company for the entire week unless other stipulations have been made in her contract. Basically, they own her, lol!

I went over what SW (Start Work), W (Work), H (Hold), WF (Work Finish) and SWF (Start Work Finish) mean on the call sheet. Sure enough, after working the first day they ended up needed her the next day as well. I said, “Did they ask you if you can work tomorrow?” or “Did they tell you that you’re working tomorrow?” She said, they "told her she’s working tomorrow”. These differences in terminology aren’t usually a big deal, but when they matter, they matter a lot. I used to say “things usually work out for me” quite often, but that doesn’t seem so much lately. I think the tide is turning for me and ’08 is going to be incredible.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I knew this was going to happen sooner or later and I told myself that I’m just not going to worry all that much about it. I’ve always been very available to audition during the day without conflicts – unless it was other auditions. But now some of my days are occupied with training or working. That means I’m going to miss some auditions – I had the talk with my agents and they are very understanding of the situation.

So today I missed my first commercial audition in 9+ years due to working on something other than an acting project. I thought I was really, really right for it too – and it shoots out of town. I’m overdue for another first-class flight somewhere and a 5-star hotel stay. It certainly isn’t in my personal budget. The only times I’ve ever been abroad have been because of commercials. I’m also really overdue to book at this particular office – crazy overdue.

Funny, I have a friend that I consult and she was going to take a commercial course with a particular teacher. I didn’t have a problem with that teacher, but I thought it would be smarter for a couple of reason to study with this casting director/teacher instead. He has since cast her in 3 commercials and brings her in pretty regularly. He brings me in regularly too, but I haven’t booked squat – never – not yet.

Actually, I ended up breaking even for the day because I got a same-day appointment for a different commercial that was fun and went pretty well. Six of one; half a dozen of another…

Audition: “WaMu” @ Ross Lacy Casting. OMG! I had to learn a dance number for this with a choreographer. I suck at dancing; I mean I truly have two left feet. I can learn steps, but it takes me longer than most and even then I look crazy stiff. Eventually, when I get the moves “in me” and I start looking like Usher! Not really; maybe more like Pusher.
Anyway, me and the other two dudes were supposed to have women auditioning with us, but it was right before lunch and no women were there. I think if I had to do those moves with a woman somebody would’ve gotten hurt. Nevertheless we had fun and I think the choreographer was pleased.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wow. I didn’t have one audition all last week. That isn't totally alarming, but I usually have something going on anyway. Actually, I had a ton going on and not having a single appointment was quite welcoming for my psyche. It enabled me to concentrate on some other things I’ve been doing – namely training. When I get into something I can be like a mad man – for better or for worse.

I have to say that it feels great to be busier and have more things to do during the day. I was starting to feel really lazy. Sure, my schedule is going to get even more hectic, but I welcome it. I get more done when I have more to do. A lot of things that are supposed to happen are happening in my life I think. Much of it very quietly, behind the scenes and internally.

For years I’ve spent numerous hours behind the wheel of my car driving around doing drop-offs. It’s funny, because when I first started doing them many thought it was a waste of time. I was cool with that notion, but I knew I had to do what I had to do. I had a plan that even I didn’t understand at times, but I remained faithful to it – whatever it was.

The plan worked exactly as it was supposed to, but now it’ll take a different shape in order to keep moving forward into ’08 and beyond. I needed to shift gears; part of that strategy is to bring my agents more into the fold. My agency relationships that have been maturing for almost 10 years are going help “Project Stephon” move forward. I’m more excited than I’ve been about being in LA than I have been in a long time – even with all of the industry turmoil going on.

The key for me is to not simply work harder, but to work smarter – then work harder. Hope I can pull it off…