Sunday, December 30, 2007

Little One

Here is my new niece, Leia, along with my other sister's dog, Rio.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Let it Snow. And Snow. And Snow...

After 3 rainy, foggy, cool days that seemed more like Seattle weather, December 23 was a beautiful day in Los Angeles: sunny and nearly 70 degrees. I spent the afternoon walking around the neighborhood in my t-shirt knowing that that night I would be on a plane headed for the achingly frigid Midwest. After a couple hour delay due to a weather hangover from the previous day's storm, my plane finally arrived early morning Christmas Eve. As I got off the plane and entered the jetway, I felt a cold burst of 15 degree air and my first thought was, "Why do people live here on purpose?" Nevermind that I spent about 30 years in this winter climate...

That being said, as I sit here amidst yet another winter storm - 5 inches of snow so far today and no signs of stopping - it is nice to be home. There is a certain Christmas-ness in the cold and the snow. And the crackling warmth of a fire to come and sit beside after shoveling the driveway is very welcome. And of course it is good to see my family, including my 9-week-old niece who I met for the first time on Tuesday and have since become enamored with. Being with friends and family makes this sojourn to the cold absolutely worth it.

Happy Holidays wherever you may be as you read this. Be it in the snowy north or the sunny south, I hope that you get the chance to be with loved ones.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Extra Union Details

I'm done working as an extra on this project -- at least until early January -- so I thought I'd explain a little bit more about the 'extra world.' There are two types of extras: union (covered by the Screen Actors Guild, SAG) and non-union (i.e. ME). Of course, Union extras make more than non-union, and the rules governing how they are to be treated - lunches, breaks, in and out times, etc. -- are different. Now, there are some extra folks who do get into the Union and spend their careers as extras, or the more politically correct jargon "background artists." This is not appealing at all to me, as being an extra is not exactly a creative outlet. But, I digress.

Productions, whether they be TV or films, would love to hire only non-union extras as they are cheaper, however, agreements with SAG often preclude this and a certain number of extras are usually mandated to be Union.

A different issue, but one more germane to me right now, is that there is a way for non-union extras to qualify to join SAG, thereby increasing their pay if they want to do extra work. But much more importantly from my perspective, obtaining a Union card means getting the chance to audition for union projects, making oneself more appealing to potential agents and casting directors, and overcoming one of the main obstacles to "getting to the next step" in this town. The process by which one can actually do this is somewhat convoluted to explain -- it involves bumps and three union vouchers. I'd be glad to explain the process in detail to anyone who's interested when I'm home next week.

But, here's the upshot: the two days I worked on the project this week there were only about a dozen or so of us (instead of the hundreds the previous days) and we all got Union bumps. So, I ended up getting two of the three Union vouchers I need to be eligible to join SAG (and have the privilege of paying the current $2300 joining fee). So, after the new year, when I return from the snow, sleet and cold, my main goal will be to somehow get that final Union voucher. And then I'll need to make sure I have my credit card handy...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Even Steven

Done until January with extra work...

Because the movie is "top secret" as I mentioned, they make us wear full length black raincoats over our costumes whenever we go outside - even on the studio lot where we were today - to avoid the prying lenses of the paparazzi.

So, I had just put on my raincoat to head to the bathroom, and as I open the outside door, who is walking in? None other than Mr. Steven Spielberg. I held the door as he came in past me and said excuse me. No doubt he is on the same lot shooting another little film - the new Indiana Jones - and just stopped by to check out this production. When we started to shoot again, he was standing with the director and someone came in with a cake, apparently it was Spielberg's birthday, and the cast and crew proceeded to sing to him. Who would have thought I would ever be singing Happy Birthday to the man who made Jaws...

It is getting more enjoyably surreal out here by the day.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday, Monday

Sorry that I've been a bit lax on my updates. The last 7 weekdays I've worked about 100 hours (with another 12 or so hours in travel), so I pretty much come home, shower, eat and go to bed. I've got another early call tomorrow (up around 3:30) so I won't deviate much from my usual nightly plan...

I promise to be better at updating when this project takes a break later this week.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Extra Looooong Days

Not much time to write before my eyelids completely close...
The past two days I've had to get up at 1:30 a.m. and 3:00 a.m., respectively, to make it to the set by my call time. And I've just arrived home (about 9:30 p.m.) at about the same time I did last night; some long days which are good for the overtime, and they do feed us pretty well, and I do get to see some interesting people and great shot set-ups.

But, the best part is that I've had quite a few "I can do that" moments. Times when the "principals" (i.e. the "real" actors, who have lines and get to be creative -- and are paid more than chump change) do something that I know that, given the chance, I could do. Now, the real challenge though, will be convincing someone who matters to give me that chance. Someday...

But, for now, it's off to shower and to bed as I need to get ready for another long day on set tomorrow. But, here's the good news: I get to sleep in! (until 4:00 a.m., that is ;)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Extra-ordinary! & Birthday Sun

As I mentioned last week, I'm doing a bit of extra work to get on set and make some money. Friday I started a project that I'll be working on this coming week as well. I'm not at liberty to say the name of the film (I've signed many confidentiality agreements and been threatened with legal action ;), but let's just say it is a much-anticipated movie. The set is giant and located in the absolutely enormous WWII blimp hangar you see in the photo. There is a lot of action and smoke and pyrotechnics - plus I get to wear a pretty cool uniform. Overall, for being extra work, it is quite exciting, though I have to get up at 2:30 a.m. each morning to make it to the set, which is about an hour away, by my call time. This is a bit uncomfortable, but lemme tell ya: the traffic at 3:30 a.m. is a breeze!


This is the first time that I can remember that it was sunny and in the 60's on my birthday. A very strange -- but not unwelcome -- feeling to be sure.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Bucks eventually find the EASY button at Staples

Last night I went to Staples Center to see the Milwaukee Bucks play the L.A. Clippers (the neglected step-child of the building they share with the Lakers) It was a nice arena, though very much like a spaceship. They have three levels of luxury boxes which no doubt are filled during Kobe's games. The crowd was very light - the place looked like Bradley Center for a Marquette game over winter break. In fact, as the Bucks came back from a 13 point halftime deficit by outscoring the Clips 51 -29 in the second half, the Bucks' fans made themselves heard. I found myself wondering, as I looked around and saw a lot of green shirts and purple jerseys, are all these folks transplanted Bucks fans? Or somewhere along the line did they jump on the very sparsely populated Bucks' bandwagon? There was quite an Asian contingent supporting Yi, so maybe the Bucks international star is rising...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Extra, Extra! Read all about it!

In every show you watch or movie you see, there are tens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of extras -- people that are in the background of shots: making copies at an office, driving past, marching in an army, etc. In fact, out here it is often called "background" work. So, in a city like L.A. where so many shows/films are produced, it's no wonder that there is A TON of this background work.

Now, most "real" actors (out here and back in Chicago) look down on extra work, since you're not really acting, you're just sitting or standing in the background -- and it's never put on an acting resume. It's also a strange dynamic within "background actor" circles. There are many folks who make a career out of doing extra work, which I can't really understand, because it takes some loooong days of mostly just sitting around in a room called "extras holding,"and it is not creatively fulfilling (though many career extras like to pass the time telling each other stories ad nauseum about rubbing shoulders with celebrities...)

But, I've done a bit in the past and I'm doing a little out here. There are two reasons: 1) it's always good experience to be on set, to see how things are done, watch the director and actors at work and 2) it pays. And in these lean times, that's the real kicker!

I've got an interesting project coming up. I'll be working several days over the next couple weeks. If and when the project is released, I'll be sure to let you know, and maybe you'll catch a glimpse of my mug passing by in the background ;)

Friday, November 30, 2007


As I was lying in bed this morning, I heard the recognizable drip-drip-drip of rain falling outside the window. I thought surely I was dreaming, but no. In fact, it rained here all day, and was quite cool - mid 50's. I guess that's L.A. winter? I know, I know, I should just be glad it wasn't snow ;)

***Saturday Follow-up: I went to look at JSOnline to read the write-up of last night's Marquette win over UWM and was greeted with this picture of the Milwaukee freeway. Ugh! I guess winter has arrived for you guys, too...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Actor as Commodity

So, I had another audition today -- and this time I didn't get a parking ticket. It was for a SAFECO insurance commercial, and I found out that the commercial audition process has become even more commodified. Now, many of the casting directors out here use a website called "The Casting Frontier" which assigns a bar code to each actor (Mine can be seen above). This barcode can be scanned it at any audition and your pictures and resume will come up on the screen. So, these casting directors don't even want headshots anymore, you just give them your bar code. Next thing you know, we'll just have said bar code tattooed to our wrists...


Now, I need to go find a bar that gets the NFL network so I can watch the Packers play the Cowboys. Go Pack!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Audition Parking - Grrrr!

I had an audition today for a music video. No, I'm not trying to get my krunk on as a 50 Cent back-up dancer, it is actually for one of those "story" videos, by country legend Randy Travis. A low-paying but good exposure gig.

Cities change, but audition stories stay pretty much the same... So, here goes: it was near impossible to find parking there since that neighborhood had posted "No Parking Monday Noon to 3 p.m. Street Cleaning" signs up on all south bound streets. My audition time was 12:25, and I got near the building around 12:00. Finally, after 15 minutes of looking I found a spot a few streets away, and I got in the building about 12:20.

Turns out it didn't matter, there were at least 50 other people waiting there, and everybody was going in in order that they arrived, regardless of their assigned time. I realized this was not really an audition, more of a "cattle call" where they'll probably see 500-600 folks over the course of the day. Since his was a non-speaking role, everybody essentially just got their picture taken, and so 6 were going in at a time. After 45 minutes of waiting about, I got my 20 seconds of fame. Finished with that I headed to my car where I found a nice red (not Chicago orange) parking ticket on my windshield. Yep, turns out my spot was on the one north bound street that was marked for street sweeping, and I didn't see the sign at the end of the block. And it turns out that the parking checker got me just about 6 minutes before I got back to my car. Sigh...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Standardized Patient Work

One of my favorite jobs in Chicago was working as a Standardized Patient (SP) at Northwestern Hospital for the medical school. For those of you unfamiliar, many medical schools hire actors to be SPs in order for their students to practice their clinical and physical exam skills on actual people. Usually, we are given a case that has some specifics about our "condition" and our age, our occupation, family info. After we've memorized the case, learned the physical exam portion, and practice, we see the students.

I've worked on cases dealing with abdominal pain, fractured bones, hardening of the arteries, and chest pain among others. Following every encounter, we score the students on any number of checklist items that include things such as specific communication and physical exam skills, and we often comment on things such as their behavior/demeanor during the encounter and how it made us feel. In theory, this type of training and feedback will make the medical students more sensitive, understanding and communicative doctors.

I enjoyed it because I got to work with a lot of great people at Northwestern. It was also a good chance to practice my improvisation skills since the students would often ask obscure questions that strayed far from any information we had been given! Plus, I got to learn some medical jargon like coleocystitis and claudication. Out here in L.A. there are a couple big medical schools, one affiliated with USC and one with UCLA, and I'm trying to get with their SP programs. I've sent headshots and resumes, so hopefully they will call soon, so I can start wearing that comfy gown again STAT!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Breakfast with the Packers

It was nice to wake up and flip on the Packer game which began at 9:30 here. It was even nicer to see Old Man Favre pick apart the Lions secondary, and the defense held on for the victory. I'm not quite convinced they will beat the Cowboys in Dallas next week, but I think it will be a great game and a huge test for that Packer D. Winner will likely get home-field advantage in the playoffs, which could come in quite handy with the famous 'frozen tundra' of Lambeau Field in January.

A quick shout-out to the Bucks for beating my now-hometown Lakers! Looks like the Bucks might finally be putting something together. And Marquette didn't look too bad in bowing to the Dukies in Maui last night. Could be a memorable Wisconsin sports winter...


This is the first Thanksgiving I won't be spending with my family (over)eating copious amounts of food somewhere in greater Milwaukee. I'll miss you guys; eat some canned cranberries for me! But, I'm thankful for the chance to be out here, for the opportunity to pursue something I really want. And I'll be back to experience the good old Wisconsin cold in just a few short weeks for Christmas.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The March

The WGA rally in Hollywood yesterday was pretty amazing. The turnout was ENORMOUS! I stood about 20 feet from where Alicia Keys belted out two of her new songs, then joined the throng as they marched down Hollywood Boulevard. I was walking next to an Asian guy that looked familiar - no, it wasn't Nolasco, this guy was short and had glasses and I realized that he was the dude from Heroes. I don't watch the show, but I soon realized that it was most of the cast. I definitely recognized Ali Larter who is small but striking in person. They were soon surrounded by paparazzi, and I kind of veered away, not wanting to be that guy in the background of all the pictures. But, they seemed very nice, ready and willing to talk to their fans and take pictures with them. I saw some other actors and writers I recognized, and hopefully having some celebrity faces there brings even more attention to the cause.

And the acting front, I finished writing out and sending postcards to every casting director in town - over 200. I'm not expecting to hear from them, but the idea is just to get my face in front of them. Then when I get my new headshots, I will likely target the casting directors who are working on projects/shows I would like to be a part of. A lot of writing and mailing seems to be the recipe for work out here...

Monday, November 19, 2007

First Audition

Well, I had my first L.A. audition today, though unfortunately it wasn't for anything too big or important. Still, it would be a fun project. It's a commercial/industrial (meaning it just shows internally at a company), but it is being shot using green screen, which means they shoot against a green background and put digital effects/backgrounds in later. Having never done green screen work before (which was used extensively in movies like Lord of the Rings, 300, and the newest Star Wars films) I would love to try it.

The concept of the piece: A master handyman - the main guy can do things like bounce nails on the head of a hammer the way people bounce tennis balls on a racket. He can also pound nails straight out of the air. So, for the audition, I had to simulate such activities. I'm sure it looked very bizarre to anyone happening by...


Tomorrow, there is to be a big, "historic" march of striking writers and those sympathetic to their cause (ME) down Hollywood Blvd. So, if you watch Extra or Entertainment Tonight, you just might catch a glimpse of me in full picket mode!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Living in a desert

I can't tell you how many times since I've been here that I've heard, "that's because we live in a desert," or "that's what living in a desert will do." Having been here about a month now, I can definitely see what this desert living mantra is all about. The first thing I noticed is that it's always dry. Coming from a place where hot weather usually comes along with humid weather, it is a welcome change. However, it means you need to drink lots more! Especially if you do anything active, it is hard to stay hydrated unless you drink gallons of water per day - which I've been trying to do of late.

Also, the sun is HOT here. Even when it is only warm out (say 65 degrees), in the sun, it feels much hotter - and it is very easy to burn. The other residual effect of desert weather is that it cools off considerably at night. On a clear night, the temperature may drop about 30 degrees from the day's high. To me, that's perfect weather: you just throw on a sweatshirt and jeans and you're ready to roll.

So far, as long as I have my trusty canteen by my side, I'm liking this desert living...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Is it really November?

Yesterday I picked up the self-promotion/marketing postcards I had printed – they have three different pictures of me on the front. Out here, postcards are a quite standard and expected way to stay in touch with the people you meet in the business, i.e. managers, agents, casting directors. It’s an easy way to say thanks, let them know about something you’ve done, or fill them in on something you will be doing (a theatre show or a commercial to look for). And more than a letter or an e-mail, it also keeps your face fresh in their minds should a project come across their desk that they think you’d be right for. The postcard receivers like them because there are no envelopes to open – they can take a look, maybe read the back (though more likely not) – and toss ‘em.

So, anyway, this afternoon I am working on writing out postcards to all the industry luminaries I met at my class last week. And I’m doing so in my backyard where it’s a very pleasant 70 degrees in the shade. The sun is bright and hot and there is not a cloud in the sky. I have to keep reminding myself that it is indeed mid-November. I think I could get used to this…

Monday, November 12, 2007

My Apartment & Getting New Headshots

As some of you know, I live in a guest house, or more accurately I think, the former servant’s quarters of an old Italian style mansion. It is a remodeled, spacious, well-lit studio with cement floors (which keeps it cool) – and I’ve got an off-street parking spot, which is very nice as parking tends to be hard to come by around here. I’ve included a couple of pics here: on the one of the whole house, my place is the very bottom floor with the gated windows. The place also has a backyard which I’m free to use, and as you can see, it’s a good spot to read or work on the computer. There is another rental in the carriage house/garage, a family that lives on the floor above me (but is moving soon) and the landlord (a nice lady named Judith) lives on the top floor, so there are really 4 places on the property.


On Saturday morning, bright and early (about 6:30 a.m.) I drove down to Redondo Beach which is about 30 miles away – and on the ocean – to get new headshots taken. The photographer, a young high-energy guy by the name of Elijah Star, and I shot for a couple hours in several different locations. He’s a big fan of using natural light, and finding just the right spot where the lighting works to enhance the picture. It went pretty well I think and I should get the proofs to look at in the next day or so. Then, the process goes: pick a shot, get 8 x 10’s made up, and send them out to agents. I hope to get that process going by next week at this time...

By the way, how 'bout them Packers!!?!

Thursday, November 8, 2007


In order to feel productive and continue my quest to find out more about the industry, I decided to head down to Walt Disney/ABC Studios to join the writers on the picket line this morning. It was my first time on an organized picket line (unless you count that time in college when our fraternity decided to organize a picket/boycott of Real Chili) and it was actually quite a bit of fun. I participated in chants and waved a sign – saw a bunch of showrunners (the guys who make LOST, and Ugly Betty, and Grey’s Anatomy) and of course the press that inevitably followed. Passersby often honked their support, and surly studio employees fit the stereotype to a T. There were a few dozen of us there – including the cast of Scrubs who were there marching to support the writers (in fact, the show’s star Zach Braff is also a member of the Writers’ Guild). Jay Leno even slowly drove by honking his support in a car that must have been from about 1915. I guess he does that everyday in a different car, and yesterday he brought donuts.

A little background on the Strike or Why you will be watching reruns and reality shows all winter and spring: The Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) represents the writers who are the most underappreciated part of the industry. Here’s a quick anecdote and example. Aaron Sorkin, who is most well-known as the creator of and head writer for The West Wing – a top show for half a decade – was once a young writer. And, as a young writer, he wrote a little play called, “A Few Good Men.” This play became quite successful and a couple years later, Sorkin wrote the screenplay for a film called, “A Few Good Men.” However, when the film was released, it was billed as “A Rob Reiner Film” and the director (Reiner) and the actors such as Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson got the entirety of the spotlight. But, without Aaron Sorkin, there never would have been a “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!” speech. Most writers don’t really mind this, but at least pay them a fair share of the enormous revenues that such projects generate!

Anyway, the WGA essentially wants two things from the studios/producers: 1) a raise in the writer’s share of DVD sales from 4 cents per DVD to 8 cents per DVD. Sounds quite reasonable to me. 2) Payment of some kind (right now there is NONE) for shows broadcast on the internet. The studios/networks make money off these shows but refuse to pay the creative minds behind them.

The Producers have really held the power in Hollywood for a long time, and as of now, they have shown little to think that they will budge, so this strike may be even longer than the last one which lasted for 22 weeks almost 20 years ago. Already shows have been shutting down production which not only means no work for writers, but also actors, directors, set designers, carpenters, wardrobe people, caterers, etc. – the whole town is starting to be affected. And the Directors’ Guild and the Screen Actors’ Guild will be paying close attention as both Unions have contracts with the Producers that expire in June, 2008.

Thus, I may not have picked the best time to venture out this way, but boy did I pick a fascinating time to be in Hollywood...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Modicum of Success

A Modicum of Success

Yesterday I called a headshot photographer whose work I really like, and I set up a shoot for this Sunday. It was nice that he had an opening as I’m anxious to get that done. Anyway, he was looking at my website and told me he had a contact at an agency he thought might be interested in me for print stuff (print = magazine/newspaper/internet ads, catalogue material, tradeshow stuff, etc.) Here in L.A., you can only have ONE film/tv agent and ONE commercial agent, but you can have multiple print agents.

Sure enough, I went to Valencia, CA, where this agent is headquartered, met with a woman there and they took me on. It sounds promising, but of course there are no guarantees. Another nice thing is that they work with a lot of clothing companies supplying them ‘fit models’ – which is what I did with Bachrach in Chicago for about 3 years and is the easiest job known to man. Essentially, you just try to clothes on to see how they ‘fit’ and the company’s technical designers measure things and clothing designers ask how the shirt/pants/whatever feels. It would be HUGE to get such a gig out here, as it would pay the bills while I seek out my acting agent. And it is possible – if any company is looking for a more normally built guy like me versus most of the dudes out here who are 6’ 2’’ with 30 inch waists. We’ll see what happens…

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"It only takes one person to change your life in this town"

Or so goes the mantra out here. An agent said that during one of the classes, and no doubt it is a truism. The only problem is that you never know who that person is or when they may appear. So, I guess you just have to be "ready" - and I'm trying to figure out what that means...

Samuel French is the name of the huge theatre/film bookstore in town. And it is big - any of you theatre lovers and cinephiles must make it a point to visit when you come to town. They have just about every play you can think of and loads of books on film - screenplays, director interviews, behind the scenes stuff. And in the front is an entire wall dedicated to 'breaking into the business' A big section of entertainment self-help: for aspiring screenwriters, producers, directors, and most of all, actors. There are literally hundreds of books on acting techniques, methods, strategies, etc., - a few of which I've read, but it would be impossible to read them all. My point is that everybody has an opinion on what you should do and how you should do it.

What I need to do is make a plan that best fits what I want to accomplish, move forward on making the plan come to fruition - while reading, learning, listening to others who have trod a similar path - and then be ready for the surprises - both good and bad - that I will inevitably encounter. Sounds easy enough, right?


By the way, any of you Chicagoans that take the CTA - I found that I still have my Chicago Card Plus and I think it has about $20 left on it. If you can use it let me know, and I'll send it out - it's certainly doing me no good here!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

School's Out...for now, anyway.

Whew! Finally done with class. It has been a long, productive and insightful week. I've come to know many wonderful people through this experience - both peers and potential contacts in the industry. During the many workshops I was given plenty of notes - both about things I am good at and things I need to work on.

We mainly worked on cold reading this week (where a casting director/agent will give you a script and a few minutes - sometimes less - and you then have to read the script to him cold, i.e. without much prep. Here, as in Chicago, a cold read is the standard first audition. Often, when you make the cut and are called back, they will give you a script and more time, sometimes a day or two, to prepare). I got pretty good feedback on my cold reading skills and also a couple of things to work on in order to really nail each audition. Truly though, it will take the actual DOING of auditions to really see improvement. It is easy to practice these skills, but so hard to simulate the actual audition environment - the self-induced pressure, the old dude with one tooth who is the director's reader (your scene partner!) who often is reading the lines of a young woman's character, the annoyed and tired casting directors who have seen this same scene 100 times already today, etc. The key to any audition is to shrug off that pressure, use your nervous energy to your advantage by channeling it into the emotions of the scene, and somehow make your audition different than those other 100 folks. Therein lies the challenge...

So, now me and my 30 some-odd classmates head our separate ways - some back to their own countries, some on to the next step here in L.A. For all of us that is something different, but most of us need to accomplish similar things in the long run - get an agent, join the union, find an acting teacher/class, start meeting casting directors, etc. All of these things are much easier said than done. There are many unemployed actors out here who have spent years trying (or not so much) to accomplish those things. That being said, there are some folks who are here for a couple months and manage to do all of them. It truly seems like an industry where you have to persevere, work your arse off, and put yourself in the best position to succeed. So, when those serendipitous things happen - that chance meeting with a producer at a coffee shop, an agent who likes your new headshots, a casting director who spots your quirky postcard on the corner of his desk and calls you in for a role, or a manager who you meet on the YMCA basketball court - you are ready and able to grab a hold and take full advantage.

So, I have a lot to do. And I need to get started. But just for tomorrow, I think I will watch some football...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Acting Class

So, this class I'm enrolled in is pretty intense. This morning begins my third 10-12+ hour class day. So, it has been hectic, but that's good. I've met quite a few interesting actors, casting directors, agents - so far. There are 34 actors total, and when we break down into smaller groups for the performing classes, it splits to 17. And folks are from all over - New York, Chicago, London, Australia, Poland, which makes for a varied and diverse group. Oh, and a friend of mine from Chicago named Brittani is also enrolled, so that's a funny coincidence!

The class is a combination of sessions: some on the business side of things (terminology, L.A. agents, what to expect), some cold reading sessions with casting directors where we are assigned a script, given a few minutes to prepare, and then perform the piece, get feedback/notes and perform it again, and finally some sessions in front of agents where we perform individual monologues and get feedback/critiques.

It is funny, as I go from feeling really confident and hopeful during a session where I get really positive responses to feeling a bit less so when I hear about the overwhelming odds and how difficult it is to even get an agent, get your SAG (union) card, make a living as an actor, etc. But, people do accomplish these things, and I know I can't get discouraged, and I press on!

And, the weather out here is beautiful.


Oh, and what a great Packer game on Monday night!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sports in L.A.

As I write this at 2:30 p.m., it's less than 3 hours until the start of Monday Night Football - tonight, when I head to a neighborhood bar, I'll be able to catch my Packers play. It is strange getting use to the NFL kickoff times out here. Yesterday morning at 10:00, while eating breakfast, I was watching the Giants/Dolphins game - and the late games were over by about 4-4:15. So Sunday evenings could be productive - though I guess they haven't really been so far - but the point is: they could be...

On another note, I don't have any TV stations yet (gotta love Time Warner, incompetence at its finest -- at this rate though, I may just skip cable all together) which means I listen to a lot of sports radio out here. And out here there are really just two sports: 1) USC Football 2) the Kobe watch. I guess since L.A. doesn't have a pro team, USC kind of falls into that spot, but it's absolutely nuts! They've got more pre-game and post-game coverage for USC games than Milwaukee/Green Bay has for Packer games. They have coaches shows, call-in shows, strategy shows - you'd hardly know a school like UCLA has a team, and I do believe the Bruins are actually ahead of the favored sons in the conference standings.

As for the Kobe watch, it's a daily soap opera of "will he go?" "will he stay?" with everybody from celebrities to former athletes to talking heads putting in their two-cents. I think he'll stay, and once again be a dominant force. But, one thing is certain, if the Lakers do trade Kobe, and do not get another absolute superstar in return, there will be an angry Laker fan mob roaming the streets of Beverly Hills looking for team owner, Jerry Buss.

Go Pack Go!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Befuddled Internal Compass

Living in L.A. means erasing 30 years of hardwiring in my brain that says "If I am moving away from the large body of water (Lake Michigan), I am heading West, and if I am going towards said body of water, I am going East." Even if you're four years shy of your Geography degree, you know that the big body of water in these parts (namely one Pacific Ocean) lies on the West coast of California. So, now when I head towards the water, I'm going West, which may seem trivial, but I find myself having to really think about it when I'm going somewhere. Lucky the sun still rises and sets the same way ;)

Furthering navigation complications is the fact that unlike Chicago (and most cities for that matter), there is no real grid system. In Chicago, if you tell someone you live at 4000 North and 2400 West, they can know exactly where you are, how long it would take them to get there, etc. However, while there might be some semblance of order at various points in the city, out near me it just gets insane.

You may be heading straight east at 2000 North and a mile later the sign lets you know that -- even though you went at a straight eastward heading -- you are somehow now at 2400 North, or as we'd say in Chicago, you are now 4 blocks north of where you began. Confused yet? Now, imagine driving that way all the time. Of course, the hills and canyons have a lot to do with the winding streets and such (which gives some streets N + S numbers some of the time and E + W numbers at other points). These unique bits of traveling in L.A. just make it difficult to know where you're going when just given a numbered street address. I've been told you just need to memorize where things (streets!) are and what their numbers are at those points. It may not seem like a big deal, but for someone who prides himself on his ability to get around, this gets a bit frustrating. Anyway, I'm glad I have my trusty compass in a bubble affixed to my dashboard. (and yes, all you technology savvy folk, I could jump into the 21st century and get a GPS device, but that would be too easy.)

Oh, and now I believe I've made it so anyone can post Comments and that you don't need to create an account and sign in? At least I tried to do that - still learning the mysterious ways of the blog...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cost of Living & the Fires

Coming out here, I assumed things would be more expensive. Actually though, most things - movies, groceries, gas - are priced quite similarly to Chicago. In what should be a surprise to no one, I have yet to really hit the bar and club scene, so I have no working knowledge of those costs... However, there have been a couple pricey differences that I've taken note of.

1) Rent. Now, granted my place is larger and nicer than my Lincoln Square studio, I was paying absurdly low rent for that place, AND I wanted parking off the street here, but when I first came out here to look, I couldn't find a studio for less than $900-$1000 - and those were the ones in not-so-desirable areas, that had walls that were made of wafer board or that sported a courtyard swimming pool straight out of The Karate Kid. It's bad when I think I'm probably paying the same to rent a studio apartment as my sister is paying for her mortgage on her huge and beautiful condo. I hear rumors that for those sensible folk who work regular jobs, wages are supposed to be higher to at least somewhat compensate for the higher rent. However, I'm not quite looking for a regular job just yet, as they tend to frown upon leaving during the day for auditions, etc. That being the case, I think I will soon find out if waiters are also paid more to compensate...

2) Car Insurance. I thought, "Hey, I come from Chicago, a big city where there is snow and ice, slippery travel, terrible drivers and a lot of traffic, my insurance should stay about the same." And I thought wrong. In fact, my Geico insurance premiums just about doubled. Ouch. But, while the insurance is higher and there is more traffic, drivers in general are more courteous, which is good or else no doubt they would make us all buy road rage insurance, too.

The Fires
The fires out here are crazy and have affected many, though thankfully this area is fine. I appreciate those of you who have e-mailed and called. I guess earthquakes and fires are California's answer to tornadoes and blizzards. Seeing what nature can do (with or without man's help, as I see they are looking into arson as the initial cause of the fires) in this case with the winds spreading the fire like a ferocious blowtorch, is once again very humbling.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Getting Settled & Celebrity Spotting

As many of you know, I moved out to the land of sun and movies earlier this month. I am slowly getting settled in my studio apartment which happens to be the remodeled former servants' quarters in a large, brick pre-WWII home at the foot of the hills in Los Feliz. Los Feliz, my neighborhood, is in northeast Los Angeles and just east of Hollywood. The owner of my place is a nice lady, a retired USC professor, and I've met my neighbors - the estate is actually divided into 4 separate 'apartments', so there are a few neighbors on the property - and a cat named Mae Rose who often wanders into my place to get her belly rubbed.

My first quasi-celebrity sighting: Last night, Gina and I went to a screening of "Lars and the Real Girl" at the Vista - a giant old-school style theater in the neighborhood with throbbing bass whose inside looks like a Pharoah's tomb - and I look over and Chris Parnell of SNL Lazy Sunday and Anchorman fame is sitting a few seats down from us. He applauded loudly before the film when they played the well-worn concession stand/popcorn/fizzy soda circa 1980's short trailer - funny stuff, that Mr. Parnell.

At dinner the other night, my friend Levin told me that I will see people that I recognize and try to place where I know them from - home? college? Chicago? - only to eventually realize I saw them on TV or in a movie I just saw. Should be interesting and amusing as I wonder if that guy that just walked by was in my fifth grade class or if I just saw him on "Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader?"

Now, I need to get to work. I'm enrolled in a 5 day acting intensive next week, but after that if anybody has any leads on work out here, please let me know! ;)

Anyway, I hope to keep this blog up to date, though since I still have yet to get consistent internet access at my abode, updates may be spotty for awhile. Oh, and as soon as I do get better access, I will post some pics. Thanks for reading!