Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On Pins and Needles

Took a trip to an acupuncture school yesterday. I've been dealing with some shoulder pain for a few months and they thought they could help - they also thought that acupuncture could abate my chronic acid reflux. And the price is right! The first appointment is free and subsequent appointments are just $20, a cheap price to pay to see if they can do anything. And it's considerably cheaper than surgery/physical therapy/a simple doctor appointment! I've always been curious (albeit mostly skeptical) of Eastern medicine, and I'm excited to give it a try. I can't say yet if it helped, but it was relaxing if nothing else...

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Unwigged & Unplugged" and Awesome

Went to see Unwigged & Unplugged - an evening with Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer - last night at the Wiltern. They performed songs from A Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman, and of course, Spinal Tap. Along with all the greatest hits, they also had a few video treats including a clip of Spinal Tap's first ever public appearance - on a TV show in 1979. And among the many highlights of the show was an amazing cabaret version of the all-time classic "Big Bottom."

Also, I now know that Nigel Tufnel no longer has an amp that goes to eleven, but one that actually goes to infinity. Priceless.

Friday, April 24, 2009


No, I don't really golf (though it will be a nice hobby to pick up when I can afford it). Nonetheless, there I was, out on the links at beautiful Lost Canyons Golf Course at the crack of dawn this week; not to play though, it was for an Ameriprise Financial photo shoot. The 6 a.m. call time allowed me to capture the sun coming up over the mountains. The course was absolutely beautiful and full of wildlife - while there I saw jackrabbits, lizards, a large coyote darting across the fairway about 50 yards away, and several roadrunners. We finished the day at another location in Malibu at a gorgeous home, but the Lost Canyons GC was really the highlight. Here are some pics from the location.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More "Church v. Ron Howard"

Apparently, William Donohue, head of the Catholic League, has jumped aboard the "Let's protest Angels & Demons because it MUST be blasphemous" train. He has started a war of words with Ron Howard calling him "anti-Catholic" and "delusional" and asked all good Catholics to boycott the film.

A more complete account of the tete-a-tete HERE.

It's fiction, folks. A mystery story. The movie doesn't claim to be an exact, factual account of anything that went on/is going on/will go on within the Catholic church. And having spent all in all nearly a month on that set, I saw nothing that corroborates what Mr. Donohue's supposed "spy" says about "how much they (the crew) hate Catholicism."

Ahh, as I've said before, nothing like controversy to guarantee boffo box office.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Extra, Extra...Extra

No, I don't particularly enjoy extra work (the currently preferred nomenclature is the somewhat less demeaning "background.") It isn't really acting, there is usually a lot of sitting around, and not everyone is nice/pleasant to you. BUT, there are some good things about being an extra; you often meet good people, the work isn't usually very strenuous, without fail there is a lot of free food, there's always a chance you could get bumped up to a principal, and most importantly - extra work is work, i.e. you get paid. And especially given the current economic climate, beggars (read: actors beginning their careers) can't be choosers when it comes to gigs that will pay the bills.

As I have explained to a couple people this week, doing SAG background on commercials is the Holy Grail of Extra Work. The rate is nearly 3 times the rate of doing background on (the usually more exciting) tv shows or movies. As such, it's very difficult work to get - everybody wants in. So, I was fortunate to get a call on Monday from a commercials casting agency (I highly recommend SAG actors looking to work to pay the $25 to get listed in these commercial CDs' books) to work on a Schlage door locks commercial on Tuesday. It was out in Chatsworth at the huge, now-abandoned former LA Times building. It was a nice small call, the commercial was pretty funny, and the money was good - so despite the 100 degree heat, it was a fine day.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blogging Right to Your Inbox

Tired of having to remember where my little blog is on the web? You can sign up in the box on the right to get my blog updates e-mailed to you. Just fill in your e-mail address, they will send you a message with a link that you have to click to confirm, and voila! Once a day (if there are any posts that day), you will get a message with that day's new posts delivered right to your inbox!

Don't worry, I won't be spamming you and I usually only write about 5 or so updates a week, so your e-mail won't be filled with my L.A. ramblings...

As always, thanks for reading!

SAG Casting Access Project (CAP)

As I've mentioned before, the SAG Foundation (a non-profit group that is funded by grants and donations, NOT SAG dues) provides opportunities for actors to meet and read for working Casting Directors FREE! Last week I was fortunate enough to attend two such CAP workshops, and they were a couple of the best workshops I've been to since I moved to town.

Both Geralyn Flood and Bonnie Gillespie shared their casting experiences and plenty of industry insights with us, then gamely answered question after question. And this was all before we got a chance to work. And the scenes we were given were a lot of fun -- both to perform and watch. So, thanks wonderful CDs and thanks SAG Foundation!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

NOW Things Will Get Interesting...

I received an e-mail from SAG tonight that the National Board approved the proposed contract with AMPTP and the deal will be voted on by all members in good standing. Since the approval barely passed (53.38% to 46.62%) it remains to be seen whether or not it will get the minimum yes vote from SAG Membership (I thought I heard it needs 75% yes votes to pass).

The ballots will be mailed out in early May and are expected to be due back later in the month. No doubt both sides will be very vocal in getting out their thoughts.

Familiar Face in LA

This week I was lucky to see a familiar face from back home. My grandpa's wife, Nancy, was in town to visit a long-lost (and now found thanks to the good, ol' internet!) friend. We got to meet Nancy and her friends Bee & Albert in Los Alamitos for lunch. The story of how Nancy's family knew Bee's family dates back to WWII in the Philippines and is really amazing. And even more amazing is the two of them finding each other after some 30+ years. Another reunion brought to you by Facebook!

And Nancy, baker/cook extraordinaire brought me some of her famous home-made cookies. Mmm, thanks Nancy! Feel free to come back anytime ;)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"The Waiting is the Hardest Part"

Tom Petty could easily have been talking about the life of an actor when he penned those lyrics almost three decades ago. (Interestingly enough, to that point he has said, "(The song) is about waiting for your dreams and not knowing if they will come true. I've always felt it was an optimistic song...")

I've been fortunate enough to have a few commercial auditions lately -- even getting callbacks and put on avail -- and the other day someone asked, "Do they let you know either way if you get the job?" For those of you in the business, you know that the answer is a resounding NO. In the industry, no news is bad news. Even when you get a callback or put on avail, you rarely hear if they decide they don't want you. Time just passes and you assume you didn't get it...

Life as an actor -- at least where I'm currently at -- is filled with a lot of waiting. Now, don't get me wrong; there are many, many things one can, and should, be doing to further his or her career. But, some things just require waiting - waiting for the agent to call with that audition, waiting to get in the room, waiting to hear from your agent if you've been called back, and if so, waiting to get back in the room again, waiting to find out if you've been put on avail, waiting to hear of you've booked the job, etc., etc.

And, as I said, unless you book the job (or the time passes when the job is shooting) you never really know when the waiting on that project is over. The hope is that you have other projects that you are waiting on, so that when the disappointment comes that you didn't get one, there is always the waiting for another to occupy your mind...

Hmm... with all this waiting, it's just lucky I'm such a patient person ;)

Friday, April 17, 2009

SAG Deal?!

From Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily. It sounds promising on the deal front, but not so promising on the "making gains" front...

SAG And AMPTP Reach Tentative Agreement On TV/Theatrical Deal

I just got back in my office to find this announcement. My sources say the tentative pact is merely a carbon copy of the AFTRA-AMPTP agreement with a few feature bones thrown in. Nothing that was unexpected. Nothing that was hard fought beyond the 2-year/3-year change-up. Because that's what the SAG National Majority did in this negotiation: nothing. And that's what SAG got as a result: nothing. And now the economy is picking up.

LOS ANGELES (April 17, 2008) – The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and Screen Actors Guild today announced that the parties have reached tentative agreement on successor agreements to the Producer-Screen Actors Guild Codified Basic Agreement.

Details of the agreement covering television programs and motion pictures will not be disclosed prior to review by the SAG national board of directors this Sunday, April 19, at a previously scheduled board meeting via videoconference in Los Angeles and New York.

Screen Actors Guild will present the tentative agreement to the Screen Actors Guild board of directors for approval and referral to the membership for ratification.

Movie Production Down

More disturbing news about the state of the industry here in town comes from the LA Times. Some excerpts:

On-location film and TV shoots in L.A. hit lowest levels on record
The recession and incentives from other states have caused location work in the region to fall to the lowest levels on record, a FilmL.A. report to be issued today shows.
By Richard Verrier
April 14, 2009
Location filming for movies and TV commercials on the streets of Los Angeles, once as prevalent as the corner taco truck, is rapidly fading to black. Double whammies of the recession and out-of-state economic incentives for producers have caused on-location film shoots in the Los Angeles area to fall to their lowest levels on record...

Los Angeles' entertainment industry lost more than 22,000 jobs in January alone, more than any other sector, according to the California Employment Development Department -- roughly 10% of the available workforce. The entertainment industry employs more than 200,000 people and pumps $20 billion to $30 billion into the local economy, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. estimates.

"A combination of limited financing, reduced studio budgets and reduced ad buying are all hitting Hollywood at the same time," said Kevin Klowden, managing economist at the Milken Institute in Santa Monica. "The result is less production and clear job losses."

The latest indicator that Los Angeles' production industry is sharply losing altitude will come today, when the entity that processes permits for local film shooting reports a 56% plunge in activity for the first quarter, a new low. TV commercial production fell 34%, underscoring the deep cuts in advertiser spending that have occurred since the economy slipped into recession.

Only a smattering of movies, including a remake of "Fame" and "Alvin and the Chipmunks 2," were shot on location in Los Angeles during the first quarter.
Five major studio films are scheduled to be shot in L.A. this year, compared with about 15 last year, according to FilmL.A.

Although film production is off industrywide, the decline has been exacerbated in Los Angeles by other states' luring away film and TV producers with financial incentives. More than 30 states now offer tax credits and rebates that make it cheaper for filmmakers to make movies and TV shows outside California. Feature production in Los Angeles has declined in 10 of the last 12 years...

Although SAG and the studios now appear close to concluding an agreement, the stalemate continues to affect independent filmmakers. Without a final contract in place, insurance companies have been reluctant to issue completion bonds. Lenders require such bonds to guarantee that a movie will be done on time and within budget.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Variety: "Hiring Freeze Spreads"

"Survival" jobs for actors and others in the entertainment industry are getting more and more scarce out here. Here is a little bit of an article that appeared in Tuesday's Variety. You can read the entire thing HERE:

Hollywood is feeling the chills of a hiring freeze.

Jobs that the creative community once relied on to stay afloat during rough times are themselves starting to dry up in this recession. That includes everything from directing assignments at commercial production houses to positions at restaurants, bars, hotels and retailers.

Even temp agencies have little to offer job seekers...

That's bad news for the hundreds of staffers who have been handed pinkslips at the major studios, networks, tenpercenteries and various shingles around town over the past year.

It's even worse for people who are struggling to break into the biz.

Ken Kaufman, a former TV producer and current owner of Rush Street restaurant in Culver City, Calif., said most of his employees are actors, writers or people looking to start a career in Hollywood.

"L.A. has a lot of young people coming to it every day, and they all have to find a way to survive and make a living," Kaufman said. This year, the threat of an actors strike and the ongoing production of pics outside Hollywood hasn't helped the job shortage...

Overall, the entertainment job market is down 19,200 posts from a high of 141,400 in 2008, according to Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

That has considerably reduced discretionary spending.

Retail jobs fell by 19,400 last month in L.A., while the leisure and hospitality sector was off by 8,100...

The situation's not expected to change anytime soon...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Callback: CA Budget Reform

Had a callback this morning at Ava Shevitt for the California Budget Reform commercial I initially auditioned for last week. I think it went pretty well, and since it shoots Friday, I'll know soon whether or not I got it. Though after not hearing back today, I'm a bit doubtful about it -- but you never know!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Photo Booking

Booked the print job for Ameriprise Financial! Had a fitting today so I know what wardrobe to wear when we shoot next week. Apparently for the shoot I am "a prospective client looking to invest $250,000."

Ha, I wish!


For those of you involved with theatre, and those who go to theatre, you are familiar with the "Actor's Bio" usually found in the program. These are tougher to write than you'd think -- talking about oneself in the third person, listing favorite roles, trying not to sound foolish or a braggart. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes thoughtful; some use the space to make a statement or thank friends and family for support.

Well, I went to show recently that a friend was in, and she was great. And her bio was very normal and nice. But there was an actor in the show, who shall remain nameless, who wrote a bio that I had to read over two or three times because I couldn't believe what I was reading. Here's some of it (and it is not tongue-in-cheek, this actor is apparently very serious about his work...)

"It's impossible to squeeze decades of work onto a few lines in a bio. (Mr. Actor)'s voice work alone would fill this program. Suffice it to say, (Mr. Actor) started on the stage at age 5...spent 15 years in New York, mostly on Broadway...(Mr. Actor) is busy in all phases of the business..."

Hmm, wonder if The Onion is hiring...

Monday, April 13, 2009


My callback this morning for Dulcolax consisted of me and my "wife" relaxing in a boat. No dialogue, just hanging out. After doing this for about 30 seconds, the director gave us a couple notes and we did it again for 30 seconds and that was it. It went fine, but since they were keeping some people around to mix and match and told both of us that we could go, I'm not holding my breath on booking it. Since it shoots Thursday or Friday, I guess we'll find out soon enough though!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Summer Movie Season

When I was younger, summer meant big blockbuster movies. It still does, only now those summer popcorn films are coming out earlier and earlier. Highly anticipated X-Men Origins: Wolverine comes out May 1, and that just begins a long line of big-budget tent pole movies. I for one love the summer movie season. Yeah, yeah, the movies aren't always great -- sometimes not even good -- but they are events. Lots of people, lots of energy, lots of action. And occasionally, these summer blockbusters even transcend the popcorn fare genre; the groundbreaking Jurassic Park and last summer's The Dark Knight are a couple that come to mind

You can see that sometimes I'll post polls on the right of the screen just to gauge everybody else's summer movie appetite. Of course, I am a little biased for two early summer releases: Star Trek (opens May 8th) on the set of which I did several weeks of extra work, on some pretty cool scenes I might add -- and Angels & Demons (opens the next weekend, May 15th) which I got to work a few weeks on as a blue-clad SAG principal Swiss Guard. If you happen to venture out to either of these summer movies, keep an eye out for me ;)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday Indeed!

This has turned out to be quite a good Friday for me. I just got a call from my agent: got put on avail for the Ameriprise Financial print job I auditioned for yesterday! (for a definition of avail - see previous post) They are shooting the week of April 20, but I'll know before then as wardrobe is already Tuesday!

Also had an audition today for a California Budget Reform commercial (apparently California, just like everybody else, is in a world of debt) at Ava Shevitt Casting. It went pretty well I think, and it was nice to get in that office.

More Re-LAX-ing!

Got a callback for the Dulcolax commercial at Ross Lacy next Monday! Not only that, but my agent said that they are putting all the callback folks "on avail" for the shoot dates next Thursday and Friday. Avail is usually the step after callbacks but before being booked -- while the clients want to put you on hold while they are trying to decide between a few 'finalists.' So, it's nice to be at that step at this point, though it could still just as easily be a "thanks, but no thanks." We'll find out next week!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Love Those Specs!

Audition: Ameriprise Financial. I've written before about "specs" -- the info a commercial casting director gives you before the audition so you know what they are looking for and can do your best to portray that. Here is the spec for today's audition:

Affluent with a casual upper class feel. Not fake or plastic. Real, friendly, positive individuals whose faces tell a story. Culturally aware, but unpretentious. Should have depth and reflect the lives they've lived. They are confident in their future as they live today.

Really? A face that tells a story! Geez. Wonder if mine qualifies...

Mr. Ed Hooks

I took Ed Hooks commercial workshop a couple years back in Chicago, and it was a great experience. Mr. Hooks is an actor, teacher, writer, animation expert, etc., etc. I still get his monthly e-mail newsletter, and he always has inspiring things to say. This month, he had a great message about "The Dream." An excerpt is below - you can read the whole thing and/or sign up to get his monthly musings at www.edhooks.com.



There is no "right" time to dream, and there is no right time to be an artist. You would be surprised by the number of E-Mails I receive from people who confess to having had long time dreams about acting, but reality and the demands of making a living have caused them to follow a different path. They can't get rid of their dreams, though, and they often want to know if it is "too late".

It is never too late. Life is not a dress rehearsal. Van Gogh was forty before he painted his first picture.. Henry Miller wrote Tropic of Cancer when he was forty-four. One of my favorites is Norman Maclean, who wrote the novella A River Runs Through It when he was seventy-six. The hit television show The Sopranos was brimming with late blooming actors... No, it is never too late...

How much satisfaction and magic do you imagine acting will provide in your life? How important is it that you get paid to act? Are you thinking of making a living from acting? How much money is that? Could you scratch the itch by performing in non-or-low-paying community theater productions while making your living in a day job? If you intend to be paid to act, then it is a good idea to put on your business-person's hat for a minute and consider a few realities along with your dream.

The frustrating truth is that, especially in the United States, very few people make a living from their art, whether that be acting, music, dance or painting. Eighty-five percent of the members of Screen Actors Guild earn less than $5,000 per year from their craft. In acting, a middle-income group is practically non-existent. There are thousands of actors who are making zilch or close to zilch, and then there are Will Smith, Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts - who earn in the tens of millions of dollars per movie...

My point is that, if you want to make a living from acting, you really ought to have a realistic game plan regardless of your age... Do you have a feeling deep inside that you have a life-perspective that you want to share with others? If so, I think you have what might be called an "artistic impulse". In that case, it is mainly a matter of pursuing the art form that speaks to you most personally. Art of all kinds is about communicating feelings.

In one sense, deciding to become an artist is like finding religion. You wake up one morning and realize that you simply must do this. Even though becoming an artist may not make good logical sense, you will never feel satisfied until you at least try.

There is one more very important benefit to becoming an artist that I want to mention. You will find others like yourself. All of us have a need to communicate. That is, after all, why I wrote these craft notes, and it is why I send you an encouraging cyber-hug.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


An audition today at Ross Lacey for Dulcolax. It was another 'personality' one where they have a little chat with us on tape and cast from that. Well, that and we had to make our best constipation face. Okay, just kidding about the last part.

Not ideal, but hey, these days I'm just grateful to have an audition!

Extra, Extra

Here's a pretty good article about the crazy world that is extra work in LA today. It talks about how many unemployed folks are throwing their hat into the background ring. Central Casting, which casts about 95% of the extra work in this town, has been registering 300 new people every week! So, there are a lot more extras, and a lot fewer extra jobs. Sounds like just about every other job in every other town in the U.S...

LA Time article about Extras

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dining in the Dark

This weekend I had another CD workshop. When handing out scenes, the CD asked if I wanted a challenge, I said Sure! He said, okay here's your scene, you are a blind waiter - who has killed someone at work. The thought of 'acting' blind while doing a cold read did indeed sound challenging. But, the scene actually went really well, and he gave me good feedback, both for my acting and for my acting blind.

But, the real interesting part of the whole thing was that I learned about this "blind dining" or "dark dining" craze. I guess it started in Germany and got big in China. Now there are places, a couple here in town, that provide a completely dark eating experience. The wait staff is either blind or equipped with night vision goggles. And I guess these dinners run about $400 a person according to the CD. Hmmm, funny what rich people like to spend their money on...

The last couple weeks I got to watch my favorite little dog in town, Kiki. Now she's back home with her parents. But, we did have some fun...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Boys (and Girls) of Summer

Opening Day 2009 has finally arrived - bring on baseball!

Coincidentally, our co-ed softball season started today, and I hit my first walk-off home run. Though in truth it wasn't very dramatic as it gave us a 19-4 (15-run-rule) win in the 6th inning - the 3-run home run I had the previous inning when we put up a 12-spot to break open a close game was a bit more exciting... But, it was 75 and sunny and great to be out there playing again.

Can't wait for my Brewers to get going!

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Maybe I jinxed myself in a good way yesterday saying not much was going on with me in the commercial world? I didn't get booked or anything, but I did have my first commercial audition in a while today for Sears at Ross Lacy. Not very exciting, one of those "stand here and answer a couple questions while I film" - more of a personality thing. Who knows what they are looking for. But, hey at least it was an audition.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fools?

With the big TV/Film contract dispute between SAG and the studios taking center stage for nearly a year now, the negotiations to renew the expired Commercials Contract have stayed somewhat under the radar. But, in an e-mail I got this morning, it seems as though the joint SAG/AFTRA negotiating team (yes, they can get along!) came to a tentative agreement on a new commercial deal. Of course, this doesn't directly help me since I (unfortunately!) have been doing so little commercial work. But, here's hoping that changes!

Here are some excerpts from this morning's e-mail:

NEW YORK (APRIL 1, 2009)—Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists announced today that the AFTRA/SAG Joint Negotiating Committee has reached a unanimous tentative agreement with the Joint Policy Committee (JPC) of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) on terms for successor agreements to the AFTRA Television and Radio Commercials Contracts and the SAG Television Commercials Contract, subject to approval by the SAG/AFTRA Joint National Board.

The new three-year agreement contains a more than $36 million increase in wage rates and other payments for all categories of performers in the first year of the contracts, approximately $21 million in increased contributions to the SAG Pension and Health Plan and the AFTRA Health and Retirement Fund, establishment of a payment structure for work made for the Internet and other New Media platforms, important new monitoring provisions, and improvements for choreographers, extras, and Spanish language performers.

“The AFTRA and SAG commercials contracts provide our members with the solid foundation they need to sustain their careers and families,” observed AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon and AFTRA Chair of the Joint Negotiating Committee. “In this round of negotiations, during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we successfully improved wages and expanded benefits to keep our members working now and in the future. This is a major victory for our unions—and a victory for organized labor as a whole—and I applaud the Joint Negotiating Committee for their vision, hard work, and solidarity.”

“Our Joint Negotiating Committee held together in the face of some very tough issues and they stood firm for our core principles. We have achieved a deal that brings significant improvements to these contracts. Our gains include establishing the first-ever payment structure for made-for-the Internet and new media commercials and significant increases in wages during a very troubled global economy. I am proud to take this tentative deal to our Joint National Board,” said John T. McGuire, Screen Actors Guild Chief Negotiator.

Details of the new agreement will be submitted to the SAG/AFTRA Joint National Board for approval at a date to be determined, and if approved, will be jointly mailed to the membership of both unions for ratification thereafter.