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 ;)