Saturday, December 27, 2008

Blame it on the Rain

The cold 8 degree temps that greeted me off the plane on Tuesday night are long gone. All those people that told me to bring some warm weather back with me should be pleased -- with the temps anyway! It is over 50 degrees here in Wisconsin, and the lovely snow is melting away very quickly with the pouring rain. Cold and snow advisories have given way to fog and flash flood warnings. No doubt the cold will be back soon, but for now it almost feels like home...

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Happy Holidays to you all, wherever you may be. For my part, I am happy to be home amongst family, friends, snow and cold.

Winter Ball

I would never have guessed that I'd be playing softball a week before Christmas - in short sleeves no less! Yet, that was exactly the case last Sunday when we were playing a doubleheader for the league championship. We won both games and also this handsome T-shirt for our efforts. Go team go!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Button Up!

I've been waiting a long time for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. While the wide release comes on Christmas Day, I fortunately got to see a preview last week and was not disappointed. Because I think the movie is better seen without knowing too much about it, I won't spoil any details here.

After the Variety screening I was at, Director David Fincher and Writer Eric Roth spoke. They talked about the painstaking process of making the film -- the special effects, the make-up, the locations, the 150-day shoot... The narrative of the film is far different than the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story it's based on. Eric Roth (who also wrote Forrest Gump) weaves an intricate and poignant tale (Fincher chastised Roth for calling it a "fable" which in many ways it is) that will stick with you.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Miami in L.A.

I got to work as an extra this week on CSI:Miami which is shot at a studio in Manhattan Beach - about 30 miles south of L.A. It was good fun - I got to play both a prison guard and a Miami-Dade cop, roaming the halls of the Police Department. The set was nice, but cold - and the days were long, which is good because I can use the money! Oh, and traffic is great when you are driving at 4:30 a.m. - of course, I had to wait about 10 seconds for the coyote to walk out of the middle of the road as I left my driveway. Ahh, L.A.: never a dull moment, even in the wee hours of the morning...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Great Scott!

F. Scott, that is. Hot on the heels of his short story being turned into the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, seems Mr. Fitzgerald is back in vogue in Hollywood. Nikki Finke broke the news that Baz Luhrman has purchased the rights to the classic novel "The Great Gatsby." Because of both past failures to successfully adapt the beloved novel, and Mr. Lurhman's proclivities to make splashy pictures, this news is sure to cause strong feelings all around.

Here is a LINK to the entire article (and already 79 comments since she posted yesterday!)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why I Love Print Auditions

Yesterday I had a print audition (i.e. they use your picture in ads in magazines/packaging/etc.) for Bose. Whenever your agent calls/e-mails with one of these auditions, they give you a description that the client is looking for, what the client wants to see when you walk in the door. And remember, it isn't an acting audition, it's all about 'the look.' These are always fun to read, because most of the time they are so overly specific that they border on the absurd.

Yesterday's audition: European, ethnically ambiguous, European-African or Mediterranean, fit, attractive, successful, tech-savvy career guy type, the guy that likes outdoor sports, and entertaining friends.

Now it's shorter than many I've read, but come on! From one look at you, they want to know that you are a successful, tech-savvy career guy that likes outdoor sports and entertaining friends? Do you wear a trendy suit with hiking boots and carry an iPhone, a fishing rod and a bottle of champagne? Oh, that's right - no props. You just have to convey all those specific things with your eyes. Easy.

What I like least about print auditions: I was #129 and they were going for 3 more hours. They take three quick pictures and you're gone. So, they see hundreds of dudes for one spot. Guess the best Wall Street outdoorsman host-extraordinaire exercise guru will get this one...

AMPTP Trying to Pit SAG vs. AFTRA

According to Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily site, the studios are making rumblings that TV shows are going to be shot more and more under the AFTRA contract (the other actors union) since SAG is being 'unreasonable' in their demands. Her post yesterday:

EXCLUSIVE: 20th TV May Shoot Spring Pilots Under AFTRA And Transition Existing SAG Shows To AFTRA

This morning, I received a tip to check out the rumor that Fox Studios television shows will be going all video/all AFTRA in 2009, that older film shows will be shot on video, and that SAG actors will be renegotiated with AFTRA contracts. Here is the response I received from Twentieth Century Television: "With all the uncertainty surrounding the stalled negotiations with SAG, TCFTV is indeed considering shooting its spring pilots under the AFTRA agreement. As for shows already in production, we are exploring every option including transitioning shows from SAG to AFTRA."

Today, there were several responses:

SAG Statement:

"We should not be surprised by the timing of this new AMPTP attack -- as usual, they are attempting to use scare tactics to influence the member vote in the upcoming strike authorization referendum. Any effort by Twentieth Century Television to shift existing programs from SAG to AFTRA would violate federal law and AFL-CIO rules, and the Screen Actors Guild will take any and all necessary and appropriate action to insure the right of its members to be represented by the Guild."

And AFTRA's statement:

Regarding media inquiries about press reports about an assertion that Fox is transitioning shows from SAG to AFTRA, AFTRA is setting the record straight by offering the following

1) Fox has been a long term AFTRA signatory, historically producing both dramatic and non-dramatic programming under AFTRA’s TV Contract for decades. For example, Married With Children, the program which historians now describe as the show that built the Fox Network, was produced under the AFTRA TV Code. There are countless other scripted programs from Arrested Development to The Bernie Mac Show to Roc and others produced under AFTRA contracts during Fox’s history. As such, the fact that Fox is producing programs under AFTRA contracts is not unusual; indeed, it is consistent with the long history of this Company’s signatory relationship with AFTRA and consistent with the historic ebb and flow of coverage between the two unions as technology has shifted over time.

2) It is more expensive for Fox to produce scripted programming under the AFTRA TV Contract. Prior to July 1, 2008, the rates terms and conditions of the AFTRA TV Contract for Prime Time scripted programs were identical in every way to the SAG TV Contract. As of July 1, 2008, the AFTRA rates have been increased as a result of the membership’s ratification of the new Prime Time “Exhibit A” terms. The inference that Fox is somehow saving money by producing under AFTRA’s Prime Time Contract is incorrect.

And, finally, 3) AFTRA has been absolutely clear and explicit, long before the question of a potential strike by our sister union was contemplated, that a program already established under one union cannot be “converted” or “transferred” to another union. AFTRA is a chartered union of the AFL-CIO, and a member of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America (the Four A’s). As such, the rules and obligations of both the AFL-CIO and the Four A’s would prohibit such a “transfer.” In addition, even if there were no such restrictions under the rules of our parent organizations, it wouldn’t matter. Simply stated, AFTRA would never participate in such a practice. Fox Labor Relations is very well aware of this.

Finally, here's the AMPTP statement on behalf of Big Media:

SAG's overheated statement regarding the organization of pilots cannot obscure the fact that, in the midst of the greatest economic crisis of the past 80 years, SAG is persisting with a failed negotiating strategy that has already cost SAG members nearly $40 million and will cost them potentially hundreds of millions of dollars more during a strike.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SAG Strike Update

As both sides go back and forth about 'inaccuracies' in the other's position (once again the AMPTP is spending thousands on public ads in the trades. nice.), here is the official info on the SAG strike ballots:

Screen Actors Guild today announced that strike authorization ballots will be mailed to paid-up SAG members on Friday January 2, 2009, and will be tabulated on Friday, January 23. A yes vote by 75% of members voting is required to pass the measure, which would authorize SAG's national board of directors to call a strike, if and when the board determines it is necessary.

The AMPTP took out a full page ad in Variety on Monday extolling the virtues of their offer. To respond, essentially SAG says that the studios are already making money on new media (, etc.) and those profits will only increase. Meanwhile, they don't want to share. Here is the full response:

“There they go again. The AMPTP’s ad is great fiction, with convoluted bullet points and confused messages -- and, it’s completely wrong.

Here’s the truth:

* Under the AMPTP’s current offer, streaming of new television product on and other new media platforms pays day performers about $46 for the first year’s use. Not per run of the episode, but for the whole year, and that’s only after a 17-day FREE rerun window.

Peter Chernin, Chairman and CEO of News Corp., told industry analysts that his company’s ad-supported online programming site, the already $12 million profitable, was a “replacement for reruns”.

* Under the AMPTP’s current offer, there is no union jurisdiction for original made for new media projects made for budgets under $15,000 per minute. That’s the vast majority of all new media. We have signed more than 800 productions to our SAG new media agreement. If we can do it, why can’t the AMPTP? We are certainly willing to show them how it’s done.

* Their proposal for original programming running on,,, and other network new media platforms is – zero. Yes, seriously, zero.

* Management is gutting the contract through the demand that we remove force majeure which has been a protection for actors since the first SAG agreement in 1937.

* Management has also demanded broad and sweeping changes to the more than half-century old clip consent provision which guarantees actors the right to consent to the use of their image and to be compensated for that use.

* Minimum increases in traditional media doesn’t do actors any good if there aren’t any minimums in new media.

How can that be anything but 'the end of residuals?'

How can that be anything but a situation in which it is 'impossible for actors to make a living?'

How can that be anything but 'a massive roll back?'

How can that be anything but 'life or death for SAG members?'

Make no mistake about it, this is exactly what management is offering in original programming streamed on new media:

Minimum Rate – Zero
Residual Structure – Zero
Overtime Protections – Zero
Forced Call Consideration – Zero
Young Performer (Minors) Protections – Zero

Management is offering a lousy deal with “Zero” in new media and is threatening the promotion of non-union work in a residual-free environment without minimum compensation. That could be the beginning of the end for actors' careers and livelihoods.”

Monday, December 15, 2008

'Tis the Season. AWARDS Season.

Awards season is in full swing here in Hollywoodland. That is the time of year when studios release all their 'awards-bait' movies - usually serious somber films full of great acting and wonderful cinematography. It is important for these films to gain traction with media members and awards voting constituencies before their wide release. To that end, there are many pre-release screenings around town. Through the SAG Film Society and also the Variety Screening Series (put on by the daily trade paper, Variety), I have been able to see many of these movies. One of the best things about these screenings is that they are FREE - as long as you RSVP promptly when they open and don't mind waiting in line sometimes. In the last week alone, I saw Defiance, The Reader, Wall-E (which I hadn't seen when it was out last summer), and Revolutionary Road. Often they have guests -- writers, actors, directors, producers -- speak after the films and take some questions.

Last night's Revolutionary Road screening was followed by a Q&A with actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Kathryn Hahn, Michael Shannon (who absolutely stole the couple scenes he was in!) and writer Justin Haythe. It was insightful hearing them talk about how the project came to be, as well as how specific scenes were prepared and shot.

Tonight I am going to see the new Will Smith movie, Seven Pounds, and then on Tuesday night I get the one movie I've been waiting for: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with Brad Pitt/Cate Blanchett and directed by one of my favorites, David Fincher!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Highly Leveraged TV

I haven't been able to keep up with most of the new TV shows this fall, but I really enjoy the new TNT series "Leverage." Timothy Hutton stars as a ring-leader of a group of essentially modern day Robin Hoods, stealing from the rich and bastardous, and giving to the helpless and weak. Each episode is like a tiny, bite-size Ocean's 11 movie. Like those Ocean movies, "Leverage" doesn't rely heavy on plausibility. But, filled with techno-gadgets, there are equal parts action, fun, and of course, witty banter. You likely won't be made smarter by watching it, but you just might want to become a thief. Catch it Tuesdays on TNT.

Monday, December 8, 2008

When Does the Wisdom Come?

Another year older, another year wiser? First part is true for me today, but I doubt the second. Here is a picture of my birthday cake. Well, not really. But, I do remember my favorite cake of all time was my mom's Dagobah-replica-in-chocolate-fudge cake when I was about 5 - complete with Luke, Vader, R2-D2, and Yoda action figures and Yoda's adobe home. I need to find a picture of that one...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Non-Lazy Sunday

Instead of watching another Packers loss, I decided to take the opportunity to be productive today. And no, that doesn't simply mean playing softball. In fact, I skipped softball today (it's okay, playoffs don't start until next week ;) Nope, I spent the day at the Met Theatre in Hollywood at a commercial casting director workshop that was put on by Brass - my commercial agent. I haven't done much with them since the agent that signed me left the agency over the summer. And even though it was a long day (3 sessions over 8 hours) it was a good chance to both meet some of the people at the agency and to get in front of reps from 9 or 10 casting offices. Each session had a Q & A followed by a chance to do a short piece of commercial copy. Only time will tell if anything comes of it, but it never hurts to practice.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Myth(?) of Dog Jack

So, it's been awhile since I've written about Dog Jack, the independent Civil War film I worked on a few years back. I know many of you who have heard me talk about this project wonder if indeed it even exists since it has been so long. I assure you, it DOES exist. In fact, I got recent word that there might maybe possibly perhaps be a release of some kind in the not-so-distant future (i.e. sometime before the next presidential election, I hope!) I'm not sure what that means - maybe a festival, hopefully a DVD.

I know that long months/years in post-production is often the fate of indy/low budget movies, so it isn't entirely surprising that this project hasn't been completed yet. But, I know that the folks they had working on it in post (sound, editing, etc.) are top-notch people, so I am really excited to see it!

I will continue to keep you guys updated. In the meantime, here are some Dog Jack links:

Dog Jack Official Site

Dog Jack Trailer

News Story on Dog Jack Filming in Penn.

Dog Jack on IMDb

Thursday, December 4, 2008

House Sitting

The last week or so I've been house sitting in the Hollywood Hills. The upside: a beautiful view, sports in HD, and a lot more space than my apartment. The downside: terrible cell phone reception. Curse you, Sprint!

Here are a couple views from the roof deck.

Oh, and the best part? I get to hang out with my good friend, Kiki! As you can see, we share the same passions - watching football and sleeping on the couch.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

House of Cards

I played poker the other night for the first time in awhile. Was going along just fine until I called an all-in in which I flopped two pair. I was way ahead and of course got beat on a lucky river pull for the other guy --- OK, sorry, at least I kept it brief. The only think more boring than listening to someone's bad beat poker stories (and boy can some folks regale you with long-winded poker tales!) is listening to stories about someone's latest golf round (you know the stories, "I would've got par if..." "I almost holed in from the rough, but..." etc., etc.)

Anyway though, Poker can be a lot of fun. And I got to thinking about why. Of course there is the rush of winning a big hand, or even just being in a big hand. Your heart starts beating a little faster, though you try not to show it. The gambling rush. And then there's the competition -- going mano a mano for all the chips. And I think that has a lot to do with it. Unlike say, sports, you don't need to be in especially good athletic shape to be a winner (though those dudes who play several days at the World Series of Poker constantly talk about how much 'endurance' they need). You need to be smart in some sense; it helps to know about odds and math and reading other people. And I know we've all played in home games where people take all this VERY seriously. I guess it does make them feel important to be able to gripe about pot odds when they are deciding whether or not to bet. I think these talkers and gripers (see Phil Helmuth for the Pro version) are pretty much tools, but they make me laugh.

Still, at the end of the day, no matter if you have a PhD in math or if you are a mentalist, there is still a certain amount of luck. So, unlike say basketball, where no matter what, Joe the Plumber could never beat LeBron James in a game of one-on-one if King James is trying, the worst poker player in the room could beat the best player heads-up on any given day. That chance makes the average guy, who still has those ancient competition genes in his DNA, pony up to the poker table for a chance to be a legend. At least in his own mind. Now, shuffle up and deal!

Monday, December 1, 2008


So I was sitting watching football yesterday, when there was a loud noise and everything vibrated for a split-second. I thought, "another earthqauke?" - albeit a very, very short one? It seemed more like a huge far off explosion though. And indeed it was in some sense.

I went online (what did we do before the internet? walk around in a never-ending questioning stupor???) and found the cause. The space shuttle Endeavour had to land at Edwards Air Force base outside of LA due to bad weather in Florida, and a sonic boom could be heard from Bakersfield all the way down to Mexico. The cost of landing here instead of in Florida? About $1.8 million to piggyback the shuttle on top of a special 747.

Click here for some more info about the shuttle landing and the mission they were on.

The most interesting part:

The shuttle crew also conducted four spacewalks to clear metal shavings from a solar wing rotary joint at the space station. The joint had been jammed for more than a year and hampered energy production at the orbiting outpost.

Initial tests indicated the repairs on the joint were successful. Overshadowing the clean and lube job, however, was the loss of a $100,000 tool bag. Astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper let go of the bag during the first spacewalk; it wasn't tied down and floated away.

A $100,000 tool bag?! Wow, was it Louis Vuitton?