Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

Wow - I guess it can be cloudy here once in a while. It is strange walking out and seeing a cloud covered sky in the middle of the day here -- sure helps my apartment stay cooler than usual though.

On Saturday, I got to go to the Henson (as in Jim Henson) Recording Studios to watch my former neighbor David do a music session for the TV show he works on. I got to watch him work one time before, but it never ceases to amaze me how musically talented people work. It's almost like a different language. For the session musicians (in this case, 12 strings - violins, cellos, bass), this is the first time they have seen the music, and they seem play it perfectly every time. Of course, it sounds perfect to me, but David and his engineer (? - the guy who works the board) hear slight variations or notes that they want played slightly different here and there. After a few tweaks, they lay down the final track a couple times. It just gives me a further appreciation for what goes into even the shortest music cues on TV shows. Oh, and the studio used to be A & M records, so the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Madonna recorded there -- and the very room I was in was the room used to record "We Are the World" back in the 80's. There is a big framed photograph on the wall of that session - wow, what a collection of legends - and big hair...

Today I went to a place called The Network Studio to audition so I can take their CD Workshops (I've discussed the need to take workshops with casting directors at length last week). I met and auditioned for Melissa, who runs the studio, and she's great. I had heard someone talk about this place before, and then when I was browsing the internet to find places that have as guests casting folks from the offices I'd really like to get into, I found that The Network Studio gets many, many in. I look forward to taking some workshops there in the near future.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Godfather or All Movies

To coincide with a blu-ray DVD release (that is extra, extra HD quality I guess -- haven't seen one myself) of a new 'Coppola Restoration' Godfather Trilogy, Paramount released the first two films for a limited theatrical run. My friend Nick and I went to see the original last weekend, and yesterday I went to see Part II.

(That is one of the perks of not having a regular job/regular work hours -- true, I may not have money or job security, but I was able to go to the Arclight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood at 11:20 a.m. and sit by myself, with my large soda and tub of popcorn. And over three-and-a-half hours, I was drawn deeper and deeper into the Corleone family...)

Never having seeing the films on the big screen, it was quite an experience. It must have been really something for those theater goers in 1972 and 1974. It really allows for an immersive experience, the long takes, the slow tracking shots, the amazing score -- and the sheer scope of the 6+ hour narrative is incredible. Even more pronounced for me were the wonderful performances -- especially by Al Pacino in Part I and Robert DeNiro in Part II. It is easy to see how they became national treasures. Such sublety and nuance - it would be great to see either of them go back to that...

In any case, if you get the chance to see one or both in the cinema, do yourself a favor; carve out the necessary chunk of time, grab a big Coke and tub of popcorn, sit back and enjoy. It will be worth it, I promise.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Last night was my first paid Casting Director workshop out here (I have went to a few free SAG sponsored ones). Essentially how these things work is that you pay (usually $40-45), you get to ask the CD questions, then he/she pairs up actors, assigns scenes, and after 15-20 minutes of rehearsing with your partner, everybody performs. CD workshops in general are useful for a few reasons; 1) you get to practice your cold reading skills (getting no time or only a short time to look at a script before doing the scene), 2) you get to watch other actors work, and most importantly 3) getting in front of a casting director.

Of course there is no guarantee of anything ever coming from meeting a casting director, but I hear many stories of people being called in by a CD that they met at a workshop. Now, some people criticize workshops as a way of making actors pay for things that they should be getting for free. I guess that up until recently, a lot of casting offices had 'generals' - meetings with actors, not about specific roles, but just so they know you and what you can do should anything come up. I haven't heard of any offices in town having these generals anymore, so CD workshops are increasingly becoming the best (only?) way to get in front of the them. And it makes sense that an office would rather call someone in that they have met before and seen work, rather than some random person that has sent in a picture...

Last night's session was with Erica Silverman, an associate with April Webster. Erica works on the TV show Criminal Minds among other things, and the session was really insightful. She took a lot of time with each of the scenes (even though there were A LOT of actors), giving everybody a chance to go through their scenes twice making some small adjustments. It was good to watch the other actors work, and it was nice to see that Erica seems to really enjoy the whole casting process. As I said, there is no guarantee that anything will come from it, but nonetheless I did enjoy the experience.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Surfin' Safari

This weekend, my friend Nick visited from Chicago and we jammed the weekend full of L.A. stuff. Among our activities: a screening of The Godfather at the Arclight, the Dearly Departed tour which showcased popular LA crime scenes and the places where many celebrities bid this world adieu, morning surfing in Santa Monica, a walk on the Chinese Theatre's hand & footprint exhibit, and a visit to The Getty Center. It was good fun seeing Nick, and it provided me with an excuse to do many of the 'tourist' things that I've been wanting to do, but just keep putting off. The tour was great because we went through many neighborhoods that I had never been in - after all, as we learned, LA is 450 square miles, so there is plenty of the city that I have yet to see.

Surfing was a lot of fun, too. (The pictures are a bit fuzzy - must be because I was moving so fast ;) I need some practice, but for a beginner I think I did pretty well -- and man, what a workout. With all that paddling out and balance work, no wonder surfers are always in incredible shape!

Now that I've had a nice weekend, I'm ready to get back to work. Or, more accurately, working to get work.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursday Callback

Got a callback for that Microsoft commercial (basically I'm a 'finalist' for the job - yeah!) Also, my friend Nick is flying in from Chicago for the weekend. So, I'll pick him up from LAX and then swing by Ross Lacy Casting for my audition...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Microsoft Audition

Had an audition for a Microsoft commercial at Ross Lacy Casting today - it is for some new budgeting software the company has. I play a dad who, along with a mom, is watching our little boy go off the high dive. Our hopes wither away as he does a bellyflop, which prompts mom to adjust our family budget by adding 'diving lessons' and taking off 'fruit of the month club.' Kind of a funny spot, mainly reactions, but it would be a lot of fun to shoot...

Monday, September 15, 2008

New Blogger Feature: "Readers"

On the right hand side of this page, you can see a heading called "Readers" -- if you don't mind being listed as a reader (you can be listed under a pseudonym if you like ;), just click on "Follow This Blog" You may have to do a quick sign-up, but it shouldn't be anything too extensive. The more people I know are reading, the more I'll try to keep posting regularly.

As always, thank you for reading!

Under 'Duress'

I haven't been posting too regularly this month. The reason is simple: there hasn't been much to report. Overall, the past couple weeks have been more of the same in terms of getting my materials out to casting directors, targeting a few agents and managers with letters and materials, and taking my class. Some little jobs here and there, the most interesting of which was as a COP extra on a film called Duress. It is a small film, not sure if it's for DVD release or maybe for HBO/Showtime - a psychological thriller - shooting on location around town. The crew all seem very young and energetic which makes it a cool set to be on. I've got a couple days left on it over the next few weeks, so that will be fun...

Also, my softball season started (strange to say in mid-September) and it promises to be good times. I like my teammates and, even though we are a bit defensively challenged, I think we'll put up a good fight most weeks.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Making Your Own Luck

The entertainment industry is certainly one where you need the right person to see you at the right time. Of course that's easier said than done. For some blessed folks, that might be the day they arrive and for some it might be 10 years into their L.A. journey. The bottom line is that you need to do everything you can do to be prepared so when those moments come, you are at your best. What's the old saying? Luck favors the prepared? Something like that. And out here, I think that's very true. So, you work hard. You take classes. You get involved with as many projects as you can. And then hope to get lucky.

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day. I met Chad working on Angels & Demons, and he had a similar experience on that film as I did working as an extra on the new Star Trek movie. That is, he had just moved to town, was non-union, and really wanted to get SAG-Eligible. And after working many, many days on the project and continually following up with the casting director, he managed to get on a small call (where they only have a few extras, often on the studio lot, versus hundreds on some of the locations) where he got his three necessary vouchers and voila! is now eligible to join the union. Sounds simple enough, right? But often overlooked in these situations is all the days that he just showed up, showed up on time, did what he was supposed to do, didn't complain, and made it known to the casting director that he was available and really wanted to work. You'd be surprised how all these little things add up, and are really the catalyst for success -- both big and small -- in this industry. Of course, built upon these base necessities are vitally important things such as Talent, but without the underlying desire and work ethic, you may never get a chance to show your talent to the right person...

I feel very fortunate that I was able to join the union within 6 months of getting to L.A. and I know Chad feels the same way. But, the bottom line is that if you don't 'prepare for success,' if you're not willing to do jobs that might not be ideal, if you're not pleasant, persistent, responsible, thick-skinned, and always training, it will take much more than dumb luck to get ahead in this business.