Friday, June 27, 2008

June 30 Approaches

June 30 is the end of the current labor contract that the actors have with the studios. With increasing acrimony between the two acting unions (SAG and AFTRA -- which has already made a deal with the studios that needs only the stamp of approval from membership) it looks like the 'negotiations' will be a long and drawn out process. I don't know all of the details regarding the AFTRA deal and there are many, many points in the SAG deal, ranging from increases in backgroud pay, to residuals, to new media compensation, to mileage (which hasn't increased since the '70's) It sounds, however, as though the AMPTP (the studio conglomerate) refuses to engage in good-faith negotiations and just want to wait the actors out. An excellent resource for exactly what is going on, and what that might mean for the industry and the casual film watcher/TV viewer, check out Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily. She has just posted some really insightful stuff about what's going on (permalink found HERE) as part of a series she is doing that breaks the entire situation down. Very helpful. And scary...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More Extra Bits

I visited Central Casting today in Burbank. They are the largest extras casting agency in town handling (according to them) about 93% of primetime shows and 70% of feature films. So, by registering with them, one has a decent shot of getting on some big projects. It is an agency that I call, rather than the other way around - I call a hotline that is always updating with new jobs. So, that should be interesting!

Again, I must say that even if it does lead to a lot of extra work, it is not exactly ideal. I'd much rather be auditioning for, and doing, principal work. BUT, until I am doing that, and doing that consistently, extra work will hopefully be a good way to make some money and meet some other people.

FYI - I've made some updates to my website (mainly adding a couple cold read/audition clips). So, if you have a moment, please check it out by clicking on the link on the right side of this page. Also, I have a link on the right directly to my IMDb page.

Finally, my friend -- and one of the immensely talented writers I find myself lucky enough to be surrounded by out here -- David, continues to write amazingly funny and insightful short pieces every week on his blog, so please check that out if you want to hear a good story/and or get a laugh: David Dean Bottrell's Blog

Monday, June 23, 2008

Extra, Extra? I Hope So!

As I mentioned a little while back, I sent my headshot/resume to several agencies that specialize in casting extras for commercials (the 'Holy Grail' of extra work that pays $300 for an 8 hour day + possible overtime) I got a call from one last week and went in yesterday to get my picture taken for their book. This is the book that they give clients to choose from when they are doing a commercial. It is in no way a guarantee of work, but at least I have a shot of getting called. Now, if I can only get in everybody else's book too, my odds would be increased substantially...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hot Town, Summer in the City

It is HOT in L.A. Temps have hovered in the mid 90's (some areas of town topping 100) for the past few days. I'm told that this is seasonally unusual, that the big heat doesn't usually arrive until August. So, I guess I'm just lucky in my first summer in town!

Saturday was the annual SAG picnic at Griffith Park which is right up the road from me. I think the heat kept a lot of people away, but they had music and food and drinks and SOFTBALL! Got to play some 16-inch -- didn't know that existed around here. The field was directly in the oppressive sun, so the game was moved to a shadier area of the park which was nice. And I made a few connections with softball players, so hopefully I'll get to play more often. In fact, there is even a 16-inch league that plays two seasons; March - June and Sep. - Dec. Ahh, softball in December... Sounds nice, doesn't it?

As for the heat, looks like a cool front is moving in by Tuesday -- it will only be 80.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

SAG Conservatory

After getting my mail today, I am now a member of the SAG Conservatory. What is that, you ask? It is a very cool program that the guild has that allows actors to train virtually for free. There are classes at the American Film Institute (AFI) campus in Hollywood on everything from cold reading to voice to improv to on-camera to scene-study. As I understand it, there are not many classes during the summer, but throughout the rest of the year, members of SAG who pay a nominal fee to join the Conservatory ($20 for the summer, $60? for the fall and spring 'semesters') can participate in as many classes they want. I just had to fill out a short application, send a headshot, and they sent my official membership card.

This is really exciting for me because the classes are focused on such specific things that they will be a great supplement to my current weekly class. Also, I will get exposure to many different instructors and meet other actors who are attempting the same journey as me. There are no classes right now, but I look forward to the summer seminar session in July!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Midwesterner About Town

Over the last few weeks, I've ventured to various L.A. locales, trying to become better acquainted with the town I now call home. Went to the Magic Castle which is a glorious old mansion that is now home to all things magic - a very cool time with some unbelievable shows. Went to the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood (the very nice neighborhood where UCLA can be found) to see a friend of a friend of Gina's in a show. What a beautiful theatre!

I've also visited the new home of my former landlady in the historic 'Hollywoodland' neighborhood. Surrounded by some of the original Hollywoodland homes from the 1920's, hers is actually from the '60s, and situated directly below the famous HOLLYWOOD sign. A good start, but I've got a ways to go; among the other LA sites I want to see this summer are the La Brea tar pits and the Disney Hall downtown. Oh, and someday I would like to get back down to the beach ;)

Audition: A print audition for clothing designer/consultant MM& -- a picture and dropping off the headshot. Not much to do.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hollywood is a Classy Town...

...or at least one with a lot of classes! You name it, you can find it out here: music, all kinds of dance, cooking, singing, directing, spiritualism, martial arts, and, of course, acting. Right now, I only have the resources to take two classes -- both of which I really enjoy: yoga and acting. The yoga class I take meets only once a week as it is a beginning yoga class. I am learning all of the various poses and positions: cat, dog, camel, tree, cobra, boat, etc., etc. I really enjoy the relaxation it brings me (and I'm getting more flexible!) -- I can see why many real yoga gurus seem so healthy and at peace...

More important to my goals out here is my acting class which is taught by writer/director/actor Paul Kampf. I think it is essential for an actor to continually practice and hone his/her craft by being in class, and I was so fortunate to find the one I did. Mine meets weekly and has so far been an invaluable experience for me. I'm sure I won't explain things as eloquently as he could, but much of Paul's teaching method revolves around the importance of preparation by properly tuning your instrument (yourself, your imagination). You prepare so that when you go to audition, you are ready to do good work no matter what happens. We spend a lot of time in class working on building truth in performance, that is, that what the camera/audience sees is the actor experiencing the emotions present in the scene and not just 'acting.' Much of that truth comes from being completely present in the scene by clearly defining the relationship you have with your scene partner and really listening. It all sounds more esoteric than it really is - all of you have seen 'good' acting and 'bad' acting, and can no doubt recognize examples of each even if you can't pinpoint exactly why it is good or bad.

Anyway, as I begin to establish myself out here, I look forward to taking advantage of the many, many class options there are -- maybe someday I'll even learn to tap dance ;)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day & Happy Birthday, Mom

Alas, I am missing the annual family Father's Day get-together which coincides with my mom's birthday this year. I hope you have fun, and that the rain has subsided. Miss you guys!

Tensions are high out here as the end of the SAG contract looms just 2 weeks from now. There seems to be no progress in the negotiations with the studios, and to make things worse, there is infighting between SAG and AFTRA (the other acting union that governs day-time shows and a few prime-time shows). I don't know many of the specifics as to why they are attacking each other, besides the fact that AFTRA already made a deal and SAG feels like that deal is not a good one. The one thing I do know though is that the studios must love the fact that the acting unions are fighting each other. I just hope some semblance of an equitable deal can soon be reached and the town can go on working. As it is now, many shows/films are waiting for some resolution before they begin shooting. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Next Steps

As I mentioned the other day, I am now a SAG member. So, what's next? I'm not sure to be honest, there is no real road map to follow to certain success. But there are a few things I'm doing right now:

1) I am sending postcards to all of the commercial casting directors that I've auditioned for (and many others I would like to!) letting them know that I am now a member of the Union -- maybe as my postcard crosses their desk, they will need to read someone just like me! At worst, they'll glance at my picture for a second before they toss it.

2) I am sending headshots/resumes and/or postcards to the theatrical (TV/Film) casting directors that I have met so far, letting them know as well that I am now SAG. Since most solid shows/films out here are union projects, I have heard from many sources that -- provided you fit the role of course -- a CD would much prefer to cast someone who is already a member of the union.

3) I would like to begin my theatrical agent search. That is, I would like to get my headshot/resume in front of some and hope they find me interesting enough to bring in for an audition. I understand that getting an agent is one of the most difficult things to do out here, and it is especially difficult to get one without getting good -- paying! -- jobs on my own first. Of course, an agent would be much more likely to sign someone he can see is already out there making money. But, the catch is that it is difficult to get such jobs without an agent in your corner pitching you to the casting directors/producers. Hence I am indeed trying to get myself in front of CD's on my own as well (see #2 above and additionally I'm sending my info to different CD's every day...)

There are no certainties, especially with the SAG contract expiring at the end of the month, but I figure my best bet is to just keep getting myself (and my picture, resume, etc.) out there.

My IMDb page has a few credits/photos on now and hopefully I'll be able to add to it soon! Please check it out if you have a minute: Jeff's IMDb Page

Saturday, June 7, 2008

I Am Now Orientated!

My Screen Actors Guild orientation was this week in the James Cagney room down SAG headquarters. It was led by an actress named Lee Garlington, who made it very interesting and entertaining. I learned a bit about the history of the guild, about how a guild technically differs from a union (a guild does not seek to gain employment for its members), and about all of the benefits of being a member. These include, but are not limited to, working conditions protection, classes about the business of acting, casting director workshops, community outreach programs, film screenings, a credit union, a pension plan, and health insurance (with a minimum income).

It's true that the current labor negotiations aren't going so well (the current SAG contract with the studios expires June 30). But after hearing what Lee had to say about the Guild and what it means to be a member, I'm more excited than ever to be a part of this group.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Strike TV Audition - Dangerous Women

You may remember me talking about 'Strike TV' back during the writers' strike. It is the internet venture/channel that was going to be run by the writers, as a way of getting new material out to the public in a way that benefits the writers/creators. Of course, the end of the strike pushed Strike TV to the back burner, but from what I understand, it is set to go live in July.

Anyway, I had submitted my materials to the 'casting roster' on Strike TV way back in February. And recently, I was contacted by the producers of a webisode series called Dangerous Women -- starring the female leads of Sam Raimi's classic Evil Dead -- to audition. So, last night, I did so. It was a good audition, and seems like it would be a fun project to work on, so hopefully they'll find a role for me!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

First SAG Audition

I was excited to get a call from my agent yesterday for my first SAG commercial audition. I was even more excited when I found out it was an ESPN promo. (Yeah, it was for their NASCAR coverage, but hey, ESPN is ESPN!) I really learned my lines and gave an incredible audition -- in my apartment. And then of course I actually had to go to the casting office and audition on camera. And I think I did okay. Not terrible, but certainly not as well as I did by myself at home ;) Ah, well, c'est la vie. Maybe they'll call me back anyway. Here's to hoping...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Back to L.A.

Well, I am back in the City of Angels after a 10 day sojourn that took me to my good friend's wedding in Canada (see photos), and then back home to Wisconsin for a few days. It was really nice to be reminded what good, supportive -- successful! -- friends I have. I am so proud of what each of them has done. In their own unique ways, they are all making the world a better place for someone -- or for many someones...

It was nice to get home as well. It is amazing how seeing family and loved ones can bring perspective to things. My niece is twice as big as she was at Christmas, and so, so cute! And my dad and I got to see the Brewers win at Miller Park which was most excellent.

Now I am back, rejuvenated and ready to go!

Print Audition: Nintendo lifestyle job - I had to pretend I was playing the Nintendo Wii. Not sure what they were looking for since there were people of all ages, colors, sizes at the casting, but it would no doubt be a fun shoot!