Monday, July 28, 2008

Ten years ago today at approximately 4:30pm Eastern Standard Time (EST) I boarded a flight from JFK to Chicago. Why? Because I was relocating to Los Angeles. Yup, I was leaving the Big Apple for Tinseltown.

Was I nervous? Not too much. Not because I'm not a "nervous type"; (trust me, I get super nervous about plenty of things) it was more because everything was happening so fast. I felt like a passenger in it all; I was nothing more than a piece of the engine. I wasn't planning to move to LA so soon. I'd had a day/night job at the Harley-Davidson Café that I really enjoyed, a special "lady friend" that was very important to me, a theatrical agent (I stopped saying 'legit agent' about a year before leaving New York), I'd just signed with my top choice commercial agency (DBA) and I was only an hour flight or 6-hour bus ride home to Virginia Beach.

I wasn't really ready to leave New York...well, that's not totally true. Sure, I was tired of my 3rd floor walkup, my heavy-ass backpack, the stifling hot (and nasty) 42nd Street/Times Square Subway station, but I thought I'd be in New York for at least 18 more months - oooh, oooh, oooh, I almost forgot the mice in my apartment. Yes, I was tired of the mice (I had no idea at the time that I would move to LA and encounter the West Coast brethren of the New York mice- mice that fly – also known as BATS!!!!) BUT, all in all, things were working for me. I LOVED many things about New York, especially riding my mountain bike through the city dodging cabs along the way…and down the West Side Highway to Battery Park…and across the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges…

Of course I knew I was eventually moving here to Los Angeles, but I thought it would be a little more rehearsed and planned out. I was prepared, very prepared in fact, but it felt a little premature. Premature, but I knew I had to follow the signs of how things were unfolding for me.

It all started because an actor friend of mine that I met in Virginia Beach in my first acting class and moved to New York with (and shared a bed with for 4 months in Hell’s Kitchen) – long story. Anyway, he had relocated to Los Angeles from New York and booked a pilot for NBC. The pilot was picked up to series and he was coming to New York for the annual Upfront Presentation with his agent. He told his agent about me and she agreed to at least have a meeting with me whenever I decided to move to Los Angeles. That got my wheels turning.

Within a week or so I’d done a 42-piece targeted mass-mailing with cover letter to commercial and theatrical agencies in May of ‘98. The mailing resulted in 6 appointments including the one with my friends’ agent. I flew to LA in June to meet the interested agents, but had to cut my trip in half because of a commercial callback in New York. Fortunately, I was able to reschedule my meetings and get them all in before returning to New York. The meetings went very well.

The last day before leaving I looked at apartments and then hopped on the red-eye to New York that Sunday evening, my birthday June 28. I arrived in New York early the next morning, got cleaned up and went to the callback – it went great. Two days later I had another callback which also went great. Later that day I got the news that I booked the commercial. YES!!! It was for the first Ford Expedition SUV shooting in Brooklyn - Prospect Park to be exact, near where I used to live in Park Slope.

We shot July 20th & 21st and I left New York on Tuesday, July 28th on a flight to Los Angeles connecting in Chicago. I was flying stand-by and wasn’t sure if I’d arrive here in Los Angeles that night or the next morning. I called my new commercial agent from Chicago to tell her that I’d be ready to audition the next day after 12 noon and she already had an audition for me scheduled at 10:30am!!! (I’d sent my headshots to her a week prior from New York to help get the ball rolling.) So on July 29th 1998, 12 hours after moving to Los Angeles, I had my first audition. In fact, I had 3 auditions and 3 callbacks my first week in town. Wow, happy anniversary to me. Ten years!

I’ve experiences so many things along the way – great, no so great and many things in between. One of the things I’m experiencing right now is being at a job I worked at years ago – same shift, same place and even some of the same people. It would be easy to look at it as a step backwards, but I see it differently. I see it as a step, sure a challenging step, but a step nonetheless. Yes, I have to pull out my bag of mental tricks to get through it at times, but a brotha gotta do what a brotha gotta do. The job is a great diversion in my life right now and it occupies idle time.

Today I went to Magic Mountain with several co workers and rode some of the most insane rollercoasters in my life – Tatsu & X2 were two of the craziest.

me scared? c'mon.

I’m not much for theme parks in general, I’d rather ride motocross, ski, snowboard, fish, mountain bike, but I’m really glad I went. It was cool to hang out with my co-workers out of uniform and in a different environment. I had fun until I lost my cell phone at the very end. UGH! But I really like my new BlackBerry Curve that I bought the next day with a completely, COMPLETELY unexpected residual check from a foreign airing of “Bones” that covered the purchase and more - A new phone wasn't in the budget otherwise.

Where are my callbacks!?!?!

I didn’t get a callback on ANY of the last 3 commercial auditions I went on and, trust me, I was sooo good in them, LOL! Oh well – NEXT!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

YES! At 4:16pm the callback came in for last weeks “National Car Rental” commercial @ Ross Lacy Casting. NO!! At 4:45pm the call came in that they had to cancel my callback because the role was cut. Aww man! Anyway, at least they wanted to see me again for the spot. Then, at 6:04pm, another call came in for a different commercial also at Ross Lacy Casting.

Audition: “Marshall’s” @ Ross Lacy Casting. Another really great one. Callbacks are next week and I plan to be there.

On to other stuff…I’ve had two blood test in the last week to try and figure out this mild anemia that is sapping my energy and making me so tired. I have a sinking feeling of what the doctor will recommend for the next step of testing. I did it a couple of years ago and it’s not pleasant, but did include some good drugs…really good drugs.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Audition: “Jack-in-the-Box” @ Alyson Horn Casting. These are the spots I should be booking left and right - I’m perfect for it!! And it went great too. I better get a callback; I have to get a callback.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I attended the SAG Hollywood Membership Meeting this afternoon after working all night until 7am. I’m surprised I stayed awake for the 3-hour meeting, but I did. Every time I go to a meeting more and more SAG members are attending which is a sign that actors are paying more attention to the health of our industry. We still have a long way to go in my opinion. There are 50,000 plus SAG actors in Hollywood – there should be thousands at every meeting – it’s only our futures. Keep showing up, a more informed membership is going to be a stronger membership.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Audition: “National Car Rental” @ Ross Lacy Casting. This audition went really well – again. I expect to be at the callbacks next week.

The even better part about it was chatting with fellow actors about life stuff. Mostly, non-acting related stuff It was just me and some of the usual suspects that I often see on the audition circuit over the years. I bet it’s some of the same conversations that many of today’s highly visible actors have had decades ago.

So I'm at work last night and I get a table of 7 guests. It was late...or better yet early - about 3am. They were a little rambunctious - just a little, but nothing that was a problem. I've learned to deal with many things at that hour of the morning in West Hollywood.

I had gotten them water and was finishing the taking of their food order when another gentleman joined the party. The gentleman was greeted very warmly by the party and then left to talk some other people at a different able.

Let me add that this gentleman's reputation precedes him - in a big way. ..make that a huge way.

I exited to enter the food order into the computer.

I returned to the table to deliver drinks and they were calling him by a different name; that confused me a bit, I was sure that my eyes were not playing tricks on me and it was who I thought it was. A few in the party were making comments in line with this gentleman’s reputation - that told me my hunch was right. A moment or two later said gentleman returns to the table. I give him a menu and some time to look it over. I return to the table and he asked me "what's good? I wanna get some eggs, whatchya'll got?" I go over some options for him and....

....did I mention earlier that his reputation precedes him? It does. Did I mention that he's way bigger than me? He is. Way stronger? No doubt. Way meaner? Probably…yes.

The first two things he asked for we didn’t have so I gave him options of what we did have. At that point he leaned in really close to me…really close…totally invading my personal space, but I held my cool…until he put both of his hands in his pockets…goosebumps immediately came over my body.

....did I mention earlier that his reputation precedes him? It does. Did I mention that he's way bigger than me? He is. And his rap sheet is longer than mine…..waaaay longer. Mine is mad short.

So…as he stands there…a full 8-10 inches taller than me…weighing nearly double my weight…he gives me his order. Excuse my French, but I was sweating my ass off…like seriously. I thought there was the ever so slight chance that I could be taking one of my last breaths. Not really, but sorta.

Here’s this huge presence, with a reputation that precedes him, towering over me, very closely I might add and I don’t have much of what he wants to eat – at 3am. Plus, I hardly heard what he did say he wanted because I thought I might have to duck, run or swing. I actually thought that something bad might happen – in that exact moment.

The super tricky part was that he was pretty nice and respectful which made me even more wary of what might happen. Anyway, I repeated the order while writing it down and he thanked me and went to sit down with the rest of the party.

His order came up, but since he’s quite recognizable he was talking to other people who noticed him. At one point I went to tell him that his meal was ready, but thought it was smarter for me to not interrupt this particular gentleman while talking to those particular women. He eventually returned to the table and I delivered his food. There were a few things he needed and I was there to handle them – he was always very nice and respectful.

I escaped with my life, LOL! This was just two days after I almost had an altercation while at work in a totally different situation. In that incident I wasn’t the least bit intimidated and would have done what I had to do to defend myself. Yup, I’m much more of a lover than a fighter, but there’s a time to defend yourself too, plus I’m quick and in shape.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I was confirmed to attend the SAG Board Meeting last night but I got scheduled to work and had to cancel. I was looking forward to getting insight into where SAG is as far as the negotiations with the AMPTP are concerned.

I'm trying to keep that stuff at "arm's length" for my own sanity, but it's difficult because the deal we get is most likely going to have huge ramifications down the road…just like the original home video contract in the 80’s that has never been improved upon. Can you believe that? Twenty-two years at the same terms?

Not to sound like a downer, but I felt that last Tuesday was a sad day for actors. I say that because I can't figure out what scenario that the ratification of the AFTRA contract is helping actors make a living. Sure, they made a deal to keep actors working, but at what cost to the profession in the longer term?

Listen, I could be wrong about AFTRA in general, but I can't find anyone to show me how they are fighting for me - the middle-class working actor that aspires to continue making a living in the business. I'm more than willing to listen. Why are Disc Jockeys and Television Broadcasters that are AFTRA members voting on a contract that I may be working under as an actor? It makes no sense to me.

From my POV they just seem to be so agreeable when it comes to the AMPTP. No, I don't think SAG is perfect, but if I was in a foxhole with bullets flying overhead I would rather be supported by SAG than AFTRA everyday of the week. It seems that AFTRA is fighting for more jurisdiction from SAG even at the expense of the performers that it represents. Maybe I’m crazy, but that’s what it looks like to me.

I could see this situation coming years ago between SAG & AFTRA and here we are. The scary part is that if AFTRA continues doing what they are doing I can see our current rates actually decrease.

You would think that since we are "the talent", the faces on the DVD boxes, big screens and small that we'd have some leverage….yeah, you’d think. I really hope that over the next 3 years we can figure out a way to merge or better yet absorb AFTRA into the Screen Actor Guild. I’d like to see Equity eventually become a part of a restructured performer’s labor organization as well. Isn’t there strength in numbers? A conversion between two of the head honchos.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Callback: "American Airlines" @ Kathy Knowles Casting. I was really hoping to get to the next step for this amazing gig; so needless to say, I was very excited when the call from my agency came in. I've auditioned for this director a couple of times in the past - always via video connection from New York. That's a little weird because you're seeing them on the TV screen, but they are also seeing you - in real time. It's not like watching TV at home.

I've had many callbacks for this office over the years and even a few bookings and I really appreciate them bringing me in for these great opportunities to work as an actor.

Anyway, I've had some good ones for this particular director and I expect to get to work with him sooner or later - sooner would be nice...'cause my passport is ready to be stamped.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Today was a really great day! No specific reason. I guess because I have my health (at least I think I do) and my life and so much potential to improve my current situation. I think part of it is that I have a schedule that has put my mind in different places and giving me a breather from the SAG/AFTRA/AMPTP negotiations. It also helps me forget that I am not vacationing on the East right now.

I am really happy to have a day job right now – well, night job. Of course I’d rather be doing acting jobs, but at the present I’m weathering the storm. There’s no doubt that I’ll get more acting jobs in the future. I must admit that working the graveyard is extremely difficult, but I knew that going in – I do not recommend it.

Back at home in Virginia Beach my little nephew made the all-star team in baseball and had a scrimmage over the weekend. It was killing me that I wasn’t able to make it because normally I would be there at this time of the year. Anyway, my father, who I haven’t seen or spoken to in 5 years, went to the game. He had never gone in the past because he’s always working and I’m thrilled that he went. I can’t help but wonder how it would have turned out if I was there too. I think it would have been okay…I think.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Audition: "American Airlines" @ Kathy Knowles Casting. This was a good audition and I would LOVE to book it. I am really, really overdue for another acting job that shoots out of town and points abroad and this one does. How about Dallas, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Caracas & Shanghai...yes, I need to be a part of this production.

Traveling overseas for an acting job is a lot of fun; although I'm sure it can become not the greatest thing if you're away from your wife and missing your kids baseball games and dance recitals too often...I don't have a wife or kids yet so send me!

The audition was conducted by one of the session directors in town that really communicates with actors and he did me a huge in favor during my audition. The audition was a series of vignettes and I had some good stuff flowing. I know that if I can make this particular session director smile I’m doing a lot right. Three vignettes deep I was doing great!

That’s when I fell into the trap of trying to do more “great stuff”. My first acting teacher in Virginia used to call it “the call of the wild”; when you hear the audience approval and try to be even more entertaining. It rarely works and didn’t work for me. I KNOW BETTER than that!!! Or maybe I don’t.

Anyway, he stopped me, put me in place by telling me that we had three great takes and not to do too much on the fourth and fifth. He then rewound the tape to erase the last take and let me do it again – less was more. He didn’t have to do that for me and I really appreciated it. I did the 4th and 5th takes and felt great about it. Hopefully I’ll get a callback; my passport is ready to go.