Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I Walk the Line

The picket line that is. Been going the last couple days, and I'll be there at Disney again tomorrow. I've met and chatted with some great writers and I've developed an even deeper appreciation for what it is they do. Just like actors, most writers' professional lives are filled with rejection upon rejection. But they keep at it, just trying to break in, just trying to get that opportunity.

There are rumors percolating that the end of the strike is near and that some sort of announcement will be made soon -- maybe even tomorrow. We shall see...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Oh to Be a Public Enemy...

So, I keep hearing about the new Michael Mann (the man behind Miami Vice, Last of the Mohicans, Heat, etc.) film, Public Enemies, shooting in Wisconsin and Chicago this spring. See this article for details:

The film, based on a book which I'd like to read, is about crime in the Midwest in the early thirties and how it led to the FBI's development. Johnny Depp is slated to play John Dillinger, and Christian Bale is in talks to play an FBI guy who's chasing him. It's a big-budget film, and would be a boon for the Wisconsin economy. And, of course, as a native Midwesterner, I would love to be a part of it! So, I sent a letter with a headshot/resume to everyone I could find affiliated with the project -- casting directors, producers, even Mr. Mann himself (a UW Madison alum) -- asking for a chance to read for them. Seeing as how I don't have a theatrical agent, nor a SAG card, it is likely a long shot, but hey, I won't know unless I try, right?

Anyway, the film starts shooting in March and will likely go through June, so you guys around Wisconsin/Chicago may get to see some solid 1930's action!


On another note, I met my friends JD and Sean for a drink, actually two, in Hollywood over the weekend and was reminded why I don't go out here -- a drink with tip was $16. Now, this isn't the kind of 32 oz. giant fruity drink you get served poolside at a hotel in Vegas, it was just a regular cocktail in a small glass. The highlight of the evening, besides seeing just how far $32 goes these days, was seeing Bill Maher getting his "Real Time" in, strolling by with some arm-candy who looked half his age.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

To Your Health! (Insurance, That Is!)

One of the things I miss about the Business World -- besides the corporate happy hours and steady paychecks -- is the health insurance. Since most of you likely have 'real' jobs, maybe your health insurance is something of an afterthought, or a box you check on some form at the beginning of the year, or a just a pain in the butt deduction from your paycheck every month.

But, for us actors finding health insurance is a real task (unless you become a very successful, consistently working member of SAG and qualify for their insurance.) In fact, many actors I know have ZERO health insurance. As many of you know, I am pretty healthy. Sure, I get colds and such, but I rarely go to the doctor. However, as some of you may also know, I play a lot of sports and tend to get injured on occasion. So, I feel like I need to have some coverage (even with a large deductible) on the chance that I split my head open again on someone's elbow playing basketball or break my wrist again playing softball. Those hospital bills tend to add up fast, so I feel it is worth it for me to have health insurance.

In Chicago, I had been with a company called UniCare, but they don't service California, so I was told I needed to find new coverage, which is easier said than done. What is quite easy is to get short-term coverage (1-6 months) which can often be renewed once, but that isn't a long-term solution. So, I've got myself a month of such coverage for about $50 -- extremely cheap because the benefits are barely mediocre and the deductible is $4500, but again, I really have it just in case of catastrophic injury. I applied online for a better plan -- though still bare bones -- through Blue Shield of California, and after nearly three weeks, I just found out that I was rejected. Why? I don't know. Maybe they don't like the fact that I don't smoke, maybe they don't like Midwesterners. They don't tell you. Lame. So, now I'm back to square one with that.

Maybe my actor friends who forgo insurance altogether have the right idea; they pay no premiums and avoid the stress of finding coverage in the first place. Course, the day I would decide to give up my insurance, would be the day that I'd trip on a crack in the sidewalk and break my leg. So, I guess for now I'll keep looking...

Friday, January 25, 2008

2 Agency Responses So Far

I've gotten two responses to my commercial agent letters so far. TAG, which is the commercial/print division of Acme Talent, a pretty big agency, called to set up a meeting for the end of February -- I guess they like to plan in advance!

The Daniel Hoff Agency, which is one of the most respected commercial agencies in town, called me in for a read today. I got there and read some commercial copy (for a Pringles ad) to the camera in front of one of the assistants. I was excited to be called, and I would love to sign with DH, though I am not holding my breath, since I found out they have one of these "invited open calls" every week, and they likely see 50-60 actors/week. I did okay, not great, but the girl who ran the audition was really nice and said that if the agent was interested, they'd be in touch in 1-2 weeks. So, we'll see...

Hopefully, at least one or two more responses will trickle in the next week or two.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Strike Out?

With rumors of negotiating being back on between the Writers and Producers, there is a feeling of optimism on the picket lines. Though today it was soaked optimism, as it rained for the 3rd straight day. I walked with my friends Sean, Yvette, and JD (who has been going consistently for the last two months.) JD introduced me to the writers/producers of LOST including Damon Lindelof, Adam Horowitz, and Drew Goddard, who he's been walking with on and off for awhile. (Incidentally, Goddard also wrote the current #1 movie in America, Cloverfield.) They were all very nice, and young -- just a few years older than me -- and they seem like they have a great time working together. That is, when there is no strike. But they seem a good example of 'the ultimate' out here - getting to work with your friends on projects you really care about. Plus, these particular guys get to do it in Hawaii...
Out here, of course there is plenty of talk about Heath Ledger's death. It has just been a few days, and it may take some time for what really happened to come out -- if it ever does. But, the truth remains, that no matter what happened, it is tragic that someone so young and talented is gone. And though I don't know him, and am likely several degrees of separation away from him and his family, it still makes me really sad.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Soap Dish

So, I spent my first day ever on the set of a soap and it was a very enlightening experience. General Hospital is shot on a HUGE soundstage. Inside there are hundreds of lights hanging from the ceiling, looming over at least 20 different mini-sets (Living rooms, bedrooms, offices, police department, bar, garage, etc.)

Unlike most films I've worked on which use one or two cameras (or sometimes three on a huge-budget film), GH shoots every scene with 4 cameras, which of course makes things go much faster since you immediately have a lot of coverage (different angles/close-ups) and go from one shot to the next in very few (often one or two) takes. They also shoot on tape, as opposed to film, which is why they look slightly different than movies on your TV , but is much, much cheaper in terms of production costs.

Along with two other guys, I played the rather ambiguous role of "Bodyguard" in a couple different scenes that take place outside of a bar's backroom -- This role entailed a lot of standing around 'supervising' the action, but we did get to bust into the backroom once, guns drawn!

It was actually a lot of fun, everybody there was really nice, including the main actors, many of whom stopped to introduce themselves and have a chat. And as I mentioned before, the studio is nice and close to home. So, I hope I get to go back -- though it would be nice to have a line or two someday! Not sure how much, if any, screen time I'll get; blink and you may miss me, but if you want to try to spot me, a la "where's Waldo," the episode is scheduled to air on February 11 ;)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Serial for Lunch -- and Dinner

I'm doing some more extra work tomorrow. This time for a "Daytime Serial" as they call them out here, but we all know them as "Soaps!" It's for General Hospital, and I only know that I play some kind of a bodyguard and wear a suit, and that it's supposed to go all afternoon and evening.

It may not be the most glamorous work, though I think it will be fun, but I'm pretty excited about it for a few other reasons:
1) I'm doing something. Better than sitting at home or writing out letters and postcards.
2) It is a great chance to get on set and meet the casting director, which could lead to future work.
3) GH is filmed on a studio right in my neighborhood; it will take literally 5 minutes to get there.

So, I will let you know how it goes...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Monday, Monday

This week brought with it a bit of the L.A. winter, i.e. it was raining and in the 40's when I woke up, and stayed cool and overcast all day. Nothing like what the Midwest is getting, but still a little depressing not to see the sun...

I haven't heard from any of last week's auditions (Of course, it is MLK day, so maybe everybody is off and I'll hear tomorrow ;) But, I tried to be productive anyway, writing out and sending a dozen or so postcards to some of the more prolific commercial casting directors in town. I keep hearing that it is a lot about getting and keeping 'your name and face' in front of casting directors, agents, etc. The hope is that eventually they might start to recognize you or remember you or, if you should be so lucky, maybe they happen to be casting something you'd be just perfect for when your postcard comes across their desks.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Packing It In

Wow, that NFC Championship game was ugly. (Unless you're my friend Jim, in which case it might have been one of the most beautiful things you'll ever see.) The Packers looked terrible, and despite my high-pitched pleas with the TV, neither of those two goofs who could have jumped on that loose ball at mid-field with 2 minutes left listened. I'll just say that I'm glad I wasn't freezing my backside off sitting outside in Green Bay. Then, I would be really upset.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Seven Up?

Had an audition today for a print job (catalog, most likely) for Seven Jeans. Since it is print, you don't really have to do anything, and it's more of a look-see (where they just take your picture) - I had to put on a pair of their jeans and they took a couple shots. Since Sevens cost about $150-$250 a pair, unless I get the job, I doubt I shall ever be wearing any again ;)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Strike Update

While rumors of a deal between the Producers and the DGA (Directors Guild - which is set to strike in June if no deal is reached) are heating up, there is still no end in sight for the end of the Writer's strike. I went down to Disney/ABC to walk the picket lines again today. The turnout of striking writers is still surprisingly good, after some 2 months, though everybody seems really tired of spending 4 hours of every day walking back and forth in front of the studio.

As reported by Reuters News: Robert Iger (Disney CEO) got a 7% raise to $27.7 million a year. By way of context -- if the WGA got everything it was asking for, it would cost Disney $6.25 million a year. Mr. Iger could write a personal check to end the strike for his whole corporation -- and still have a little over $21 million left over.

Here's a great short op-ed piece about the Strike, Fox and American Idol. You can find more like this, and get consistent updates at

Laughing All The Way

By Ed Decter (WGA member, Pet Rock owner)

Long ago, in the era before digital streaming and video on demand, I was one of those kids who saved his allowance and bought a Pet Rock. I remember my father putting on his bifocals to examine the cardboard box with the built-in handle, the little nest of straw and the egg-sized gray stone. My dad sighed then said, “The guy who thought of this is laughing all the way to the bank.”

If my dad were still alive, he would be following the progress of our strike very closely; not just because his son is a screenwriter, but because he was always skeptical that those in power would abuse that power (I guess being in the first United States Army division to cross the Rhine made an impression on him).

My dad read two newspapers cover-to-cover every morning. He would have certainly seen the article about how the WGA strike has resulted in a huge boost in ad rates for American Idol. Fox is now charging about a million dollars for a thirty second spot on Idol. This rate isn’t for the FINALS, just a regular weekly episode. After reading the article my dad would have called me and asked, “How many thirty second spots are there in an hour of television?” I would have replied that on average there are about eighteen minutes of commercials per hour.

My dad, who was a businessman and very good with numbers, particularly as they related to the “bottom line,” would have estimated that each hour of American Idol was grossing 36 million dollars for Fox. The two hour episode that aired last night might have brought in 72 million. I would have then explained to my dad that those ad rate figures were just the tip of the iceberg. The Idol show also serves as an advertisement for CD sales, live touring shows, and tons of Idol-related merchandise (even on the Internet!).

I imagine my dad would have asked me who the “guy in charge” at Fox was. I would have told him the guy’s name is Peter Chernin. My dad would have said, “He must be laughing all the way to the bank.”

Peter Chernin must be a lot smarter than the chairmen of the other conglomerates. He must have about a hundred IQ points on each of them. How did he convince Les Moonves to “hold the line” and do without new CSI episodes while handing Fox the biggest ratings win in history? How did Chernin spin Iger on shutting down the Grey’s Anatomy juggernaut so that WGA-less Idol could run free of any competition? What did he say to Jeff Zucker? Did he assure Zucker that Howie Mandel is every bit the ratings equal of Simon Cowell?

Apparently, according to my Google search, a guy named Gary Dahl invented the Pet Rock. In the world of sales Gary was an amateur. He just dreamed up a product and made a bunch of money. If Gary were truly a captain of industry he would have also convinced the manufacturers of hula hoops, Slinkys and Tonka Trucks to STOP MANUFACTURING THEIR TOYS so that the public could ONLY buy Pet Rocks.

That’s why Gary Dahl could never be chairman of Fox. He’s no Peter Chernin.

So, Les, Bob, Jeff, just know that when Peter Chernin is at the bank cashing his billion dollar profit checks, he’s not just laughing at the WGA – he’s also laughing at the three of you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Two Auditions

I had two (non-union) commercial auditions this morning which was great, but a bit nerve-racking since the first was in Santa Monica and the next was in Hollywood and traffic is always an adventure.

Audition 1: True Credit. I guess it's a pretty big credit company - helps get people into and then out of debt I suspect. The audition was for the part of a younger mechanic who impresses his older, grumpier mentor by having credit good enough to buy the nice sports car that he's working on. Would be a fun little spot, so hopefully I hear back.

Audition 2: Bon-Ton department stores. I hadn't heard of them, but looking at their website and merchandise, they seem a lot like Kohl's. I wonder if they are even affiliated in some way...
Anyway, the audition consisted of literally walking back and forth in front of the camera. And I don't think the lady particularly liked the way I walk, so I doubt I'll hear back. Maybe it's my terrible posture, have to work on that...

Callbacks (i.e. second and final round of auditions for those they liked the most from the initial csating) for both are next week, so if I'm going to hear back (you never do if you DON't get the gig/callback/whatever), it should be by the end of the week.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Walking In Sunshine

This afternoon, I got to take a nice long walk in the sunshine (it's about 75 degrees here today) to the post office where I sent off my first batch of commercial agent letters. I sent out 17 this time, and now it's just wait-and-see. With the new postal rates, it cost 97 cents to send each one out. So, in addition to being very time-consuming to do a mass mailing to all 150+ agents, it is really cost prohibitive - especially considering most people have to do several such mailings before they get an agent. Yes, it might take longer this way for me to finally land an agent, but I think it more likely that I will get a good one this way.

So, I will just move on to other things and give this mailing about a month or so. If, at that time, I haven't heard back from anyone, I'll (mostly random at that point) choose several other agents to send to.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Favorite Movies of 2007

I'm disappointed to say that there were many 2007 theatrical releases that I wanted to see, but never got a chance to. That being said, of the many movies I did see, here are my favorites:

10) Paris je t'aime - most of the 18 short segments of this film were quite memorable, including the Coen brothers take on the Paris subway scene starring Steve Buscemi.

9) 300 - This CGI testosterone-fest is a potential preview of the green-screen action movie future. Seeing it with a rowdy packed house at a midnight opening no doubt enhanced the experience.

8) No Country for Old Men - Javier Bardem plays one of the creepiest villains this side of Hannibal Lector, and Tommy Lee Jones is at his grizzled best.

7) 3:10 to Yuma - Despite the climactic scene's stretch of audience believability, this Western was a lot of fun. Christian Bale vs. Russell Crowe makes for an engaging watch, but Ben Foster as Crowe's main henchman steals the show.

6) Knocked Up - Sometimes vulgar, sometimes honest, always funny. A nice ensemble cast really challenged the conventions of modern movie comedy.

5) There Will Be Blood - Daniel Day-Lewis gives a tour de force performance and makes the third act's leaps forgivable. Appearing in virtually every scene of this 2 1/2 hour movie, Day-Lewis is truly mesmerizing.

4) Into the Wild - Hard to live up to one of my all-time favorite books, but Sean Penn's direction and some amazing performances -- led by Emile Hirsch, Hal Holbrook, and a surprising Vince Vaughn -- came darn close.

3) The Bourne Ultimatum - Jason Bourne is a new type of action hero, and Paul Greengrass's inspired direction created a new kind of smart action movie. It's a pity the trilogy is over, but with such big box office, we may not have seen that last of Mr. Bourne...

TIE - sorry, can't decide between...

1) Michael Clayton - A tense, intelligent, taught thriller full of great actors doing their thing. Tilda Swinton is wonderfully detestable. How come we don't get more like this?

1) Once - An extremely low budget gem that checks in at under 80 minutes. Short on time, but long on feeling, Once is the kind of musical I can get behind. Great soundtrack, great performances by some non-actors, and the absence of the typical cliche Hollywood ending make this one an instant classic.

No doubt my list would be different had I seen all of the 200+ movies released theatrically last year, but it is what it is. Objections, suggestions or additions?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Green and Blue and Gold Day

It was a nice day to be a Wisconsin sports fan. Marquette gets a big win against hated Notre Dame and that's followed up by the Packers thrashing the Seahawks at Lambeau.

I do miss being able to watch these games either in person or with my friends or family back home, but it is still a nice distraction while I'm trying to get work done ;) Today's project is getting cover letters written, printed out, and packed up with headshots/resumes to send to commercial agents on Monday. The writer's strike doesn't affect the commercial industry, so while it's not a good time to be looking for theatrical (i.e. TV/Film) representation, it IS a good time to try to get a commercial agent.

My initial targeted mailing will be to 15-20 agents (of the 150+ in town) who I have heard good things about. Hopefully I will hear back from one or two in the next few weeks wanting to set up meetings. If I don't hear back from any of them, I will send out to another batch of agents and so on. Yes, it can be a lengthy process to do it this way rather than a "mass mailing" to every agent in town, but 1) it's cheaper this way and 2) I stand a better chance of getting an agent who could really do something for me.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Great In 2008!

I guess I have procrastinated long enough, time for me to put up my resolutions/goals for the coming year. I figure if I actually write them down here, I’ll be more likely to follow them. Over the 3 months or so since I’ve arrived in L.A., I’ve started to learn a bit about the city and the industry, and I look forward to a big 2008. The following is a list that combines both resolutions (things I have control over) and goals (things that I can work towards, but which may be out of my control).

- Sign with a commercial agent
- Book a commercial
- Get my SAG card
- Self-submit (to notices online for films, commercials, etc.) to at least one thing every day – even if I don’t exactly fit the description, because you never know…
- Update my blog at least every other day
- Enroll in a regular acting class, as a way of improving my technique and building up other connections in the industry
- Read a novel (industry-related/acting/self-help books do not count) every month
- Work on networking – do something; attend a screening, set-up a meeting – every week
- Make an industry contact list and add at least one person’s name & contact info every week
- Get business cards made, they are much easier than headshots or postcards to carry around and hand out
- Go to the Y, or do something active, at least 4 times a week
- Find a racquetball partner

This is not a comprehensive list of things I’d like to accomplish this year (some other things are contingent on this writer’s strike ending!), but it should serve as a starting point.

If any of you are brave enough, or crazy enough, to make New Year’s resolutions, best of luck seeing them through!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

No Off-Roading For Me

Well, unfortunately, it looks like I won't be working on that Honda ATV commercial tomorrow. Oh well, c'est la vie. But, once again, it was a learning experience for me. Technically, I was put on "avail" which means they want to know if I'm available and apparently is an extra step here prior to being put on "hold" which means you just about have the job. Confused yet? Yeah, me too.

Latest Strike Info

While there have been a couple small interim deals struck here over the past couple weeks, overall, there hasn't been much progress. Yesterday, I went to a meeting at the WGA theatre about a new venture by the writers called "Strike TV" - it is an initial foray by the writers into new media. They are developing a non-profit (for now) website that will show new, short productions created -- and owned -- by writers. There is the hope that this is a way to eventually compete with the big studios in the distribution arena. Distribution is the way that the networks/studios have been holding control of the industry since the first movies were made 100 years ago - "Give us x% (sometimes 50% or more) of your product and we will get it out to the masses" Of course, the internet, and ANYONE'S ability to have their stuff seen by millions of people around the world, is changing the idea of what distribution should be - and what it is worth.

If you're interested in the latest goings-on of the strike, here are a couple of the best websites (On the right side of United Hollywood, you'll find a link to Strike TV if you're interested in hearing more about that venture)

The Official Site:
Nikki Finke's slightly more gritty, "Insider":

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

*Honda ATV Commercial Audition Update

I just got a call from my agent saying that the media company producing the commercial I auditioned for yesterday wanted to put me "on hold." This means that I am among the few people that the company is choosing from, and they wanted to make sure I was available for the shoot day this Friday. So, it is a good sign, but then it does make it that much harder to get put on hold if I don't get the job - that feeling of "oh, so close."

Nonetheless, better to be close than nothing at all, right? So, now I wait for them to make up their minds and hope to get a call in the next day or so.

Fingers crossed.

You Don't Know Jack!

But, my friend Rebecca does! Or at least she got to meet Mr. Nicholson and interview him one-on-one for her article that was published in Sunday's Boston Globe. Here is a link to the highly insightful article, check it out!

Rebecca, a young, incredibly talented writer, actually lives in the other guest house on the property - and we enjoy helping each other procrastinate whenever possible!

Monday, January 7, 2008

First Audition of 2008

Well, after a wonderful trip back home, I am back in L.A. It was great to see so many of you guys and catch up. And it was a nice reminder of how lucky I am to have such a supportive group of family and friends. So, thank you all.

I had my first audition of the new year today - really more of a look-see, where they a ton of people, take their picture, and send them on their way. It was for a Honda ATV commercial which sounds like it would be fun. And with the description for what they wanted, "Someone who looks rugged, outdoorsy, etc." it was quite nice: I didn't shave, threw on my flannel and was good to go. I feel like I could be just what they need. Course, I'm sure that I'll be just one of many non clean shaven dudes in flannel that they photograph, so you just hope that you stick out somehow.

Though I should say that it is strange; the feeling that I am just right for a role is usually the kiss of death. The vast majority of things that I have actually gotten, I either didn't fit the original desired description, or I felt like I had a bad audition. So, you never know. And that's true about commercial folks, casting directors, ad execs, too - they often don't really know what they want. So, as an actor all you can do is go in and give it your best "YOU" and hope that strikes them somehow.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year!

Some holiday musings...

The other night I was watching a movie on TV with my dad, Crimson Tide, and I could've sworn I recognized one of the supporting actors. After the movie I looked him up, and sure enough, I play hoops with him at the Y...

Returning to the Midwest reminds me how much I hate coming home from a night out smelling like an ashtray. It seems crazy now to walk into a tavern/bar/pub and trudge through a hazy cloud of cigarette smoke to get a beer, but c'est la vie around these parts...

Being in L.A., it is hard to have perspective when it comes to the WGA strike; its effects are so pervasive out there. Many of my friends here, even some of the movie-savvy, don't really get what's going out there, since there is so little coverage. Most of my family doesn't even know a strike is going on! Of course that will no doubt change when TV consists solely of reruns, talk shows, and American Gladiators in a few weeks...

Happy New Year everybody - Have a wonderful 2008!