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!