Thursday, April 29, 2010

Funny Stuff

The past couple (looooooong) days, I had the opportunity to do background work close by at Warner Brothers studios on the new Steve Carell movie.  It's as of yet untitled, but it has a great cast including Kevin Bacon, Marisa Tomei, and Ryan Gosling (who, along with Carell, was there for the scenes I worked on.)  It was fun to watch Steve Carell work -- he would riff on the script, and sometimes the other cast and crew would crack up.  It looks to be pretty funny, and it was nice to get some long days in -- at least paycheck-wise.  I also realized that it was actually the first time I worked on the Warner Brothers lot, one of the oldest (the stage we worked on was built in 1935) and most storied locales in Hollywood.  (And yes, that's a denim sport coat I wore for the scene.)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

4-Week Acting Workshop in May

I recently wrote about my experience with my acting teacher, Paul Kampf. (Class with Class)   Through Breadline Productions, Paul is offering a 4-week acting intensive this May.  Here is some info about it:

 Overview: 4-Week Acting Intensive
The Approach:
Paul’s focus is 100% on freeing your gifts as an actor through exercises that harness the imagination to anchor visceral and repeatable triggers that allow you to find the depth of truth in each character you portray. 

Through in class and out of class exercises, you will discover techniques that reveal your character’s emotional state, rhythm and thought process.  All of which allow you to live freely in the creative moment of performance. 

During this 4-week intensive, we will work on two person scenes, on and off camera work & improvisation techniques to inspire your unique emotional and physical imagination. 

The Process:
Weeks 1 & 2               Work intensive exercises to set the basis of the work you will do with scripted material. 
Weeks 3 & 4               Work from scripts while learning how to effectively use improvisation and pre-scenes to make the character’s words & thought process your own. 

Dates:              Sundays, May 9, 16, 23 & 30th
Time:               11am-2pm
Location:        Momentum Theatre, 6760 Lexington Avenue - Hollywood
Fees:                $195 (or for more information)

Paul Kampf  (Bio)
Paul is a founding member and Artistic Director of Breadline Theatre Group, where he has overseen Breadline’s growth from its first production in 1993. Paul has appeared in over twenty productions and has written or co-written fifteen plays, including American Gothic, which received a Joseph Jefferson nomination for Best New Work, and which he later adapted for the screen and directed (re-titled Brothers Three: An American Gothic) featuring Patrick Wilson, Neal McDonough, & John Heard. He has written, co-written or developed ten screenplays, many of which will be produced through Breadline’s film division.

Paul is a fervent believer in actor training and has developed the Performing Arts Institute, where he teaches ongoing and private classes. He just finished the feature film From Grace, and two shorts films – all featuring professional actors from within the training program. Paul holds an M.F.A. in Acting from Illinois State University and a B.F.A. in Acting/Directing from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. In 1993, he was one of five American playwrights invited to London’s famed Royal Court Theatre, where he worked with some of the most influential theater artists from around the world.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Premiering the New (Commercial) Me!

I just signed with a new commercial agency today - The Premier Talent Group!  I've actually known my new agent, Erika, for a while (though she is relatively new to the company) and just to show what a small town LA is: I met her and her husband Tyler soon after I moved here when we were taking a few of the same casting director workshops -- and months later found out that they were housemates of my good friend Chad who I met working nights on Angels & Demons!  

I appreciate my time with my other agency, but really didn't have a personal relationship with the agents there (probably because the agent I signed with left the place soon after...)  Erika is talented and hard-working and I am inspired to get a new start with her -- a wonderful chance to turn over a new leaf on the commercial side!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hmm... Cracking Down on Workshops?

Variety has an interesting article today: L.A. cracks down on 'pay to audition' scams

I've written many times about attending Casting Director workshops since this is often the only way for new actors to get in front of CDs.  They are usually viewed out here (by actors anyway...) as necessary evils.  Apparently there used to be a time in 'the good old days' that casting people would have general meetings where they would meet new talent -- for free!  But, now of course these workshops are held, and actors pay $30-40+ to meet and read.

Anyway, the article reads in part:
The city of Los Angeles is warning casting workshops and talent services that it's serious about enforcing tightened state rules barring "pay to audition" scams.
City Attorney Carmen Trutanich sent out about 200 letters this week, notifying the operators that the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act had gone into effect on Jan. 1.
He warned that a willful violation could bring both jail time and a $10,000 fine. "Please note that the talent service is not the only potential offender," Trutanich said in his letter. "A person who aids and abets a violation of this statute is also criminally liable."

I don't know that anything will really change however.  It just seems that workshops cannot "guarantee" work for those attending, thus it's not really even an official audition, per se -- but I don't know that any legitimate workshops ever did guarantee anything anyway. While I wish that those general meetings of yore would come back in vogue, or that workshops would be held for free (or at least cheaper), I won't be holding my breath.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Here is a trailer for From Grace, the Rising Tide Productions film I worked on last year.  I mentioned it a few times before on my blog:  Amazing Grace and A Little Bit of Grace

Thanks for checking it out!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Morning Read

I had an audition this morning for a part as a "Roadside Assistance Guy" on the NBC web series that Sara Isaacson is casting.  Reminder: Sara is the CD that I've been helping out recently.  She called late Friday to say that the specs on one of her roles changed and asked if I wanted to read for the part today.  Of course, I said yes! 

It is a pretty short scene, and there were only a couple lines for me on the audition sides.  Sometimes these kind of auditions are the hardest, since there isn't a whole lot of material to dig into and create a whole, round character.  But, I enjoyed the challenge; I made a few specific choices and went in with those in mind.  The director seemed to like my original read, but then gave me a couple adjustments which I tried to hit the second time through.  I got them a little bit I think, but of course only in the car on the way home did I really nail the adjustment.  Still, I was glad the director had me run through it twice.

Overall, as far as auditions go, I felt pretty good about the whole thing.  It goes without saying that I would love to get the part, but even a positive feeling about an audition does a lot to keep one going out here...


Saturday, April 17, 2010

On the Fox Lot

The pick-up shots for The A-Team were on the 20th Century Fox lot, which is one of my favorite places to work.  No, it's not nearly as close to me as Paramount or Warner Brothers -- it is located on the appropriately named "Avenue of the Stars" way on the West side of town -- but it does have some very cool giant movie murals! 

Not surprisingly, my favorite of these is this Star Wars one (actually a scene from Empire) that greets you as you enter the lot from Pico Blvd. You can see that Luke's upper half and lower don't match up because the huge stage door is open a little bit.

Behind the stage on the left, you can catch another icon for us 80's fans: the Fox building better known as the Nakatomi Plaza from 1988 action classic Die Hard.  You get a better view of John McClane's favorite holiday house of horrors from the trailers.  Yippee-ky-ay!

And one more mural from the side of the parking garage I got as I was walking back to my car.  The hills are alive...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Getting Aboard The A-Team Train

Just last week when the new trailer for The A-Team movie came out, I mentioned to my friend and fellow 80's aficionado, DT, that I would love to have been in this movie.  Well, thanks to the need for some reshoots, I got to be!  After a film has completed principal photography and goes through editing, sometimes the director sees a need for additional/different stuff and orders some reshoots.  This was the case on The A-Team and I got called to come in yesterday to be a photo double for a sniper.

Photo double work is pretty cool -- you usually get your own little trailer and the treat you very nicely.  Essentially what it was in this case: they needed to match a very short (5 frames) shot they got from a distance of a sniper shooting into a crowd (I guess that guy who was the original sniper when they shot up in Canada couldn't be there.)  They realized they needed to ratchet up the tension by getting more 'sniper-ish' shots, i.e. close-ups of the eye, barrel, bolt action, trigger pull, etc.  So, that's where I came in.  It was a lot of fun, though a bit stressful since I was prone, firing (but not actually shooting anything...) this heavy, bolt-action sniper rifle (something which I had never done before) in front of hot lights and a crew of some 30 folks with the camera about three feet away while the director was yelling instructions to both me and the camera from the back of the soundstage ("close your eye slower!"  "get to the trigger faster!" "rack focus on the end of the barrel!")  It was about an hour worth of shooting/set-up for what may be 5 seconds in the film, but it should look pretty slick - Ah, good times!

I didn't take any photos of the me on the set to respect the privacy of the film, but here are a couple shots of my sniper garb. 

No doubt there will be many sniper shots in the film, but look out for one shooting from a hotel balcony with a black cap on, and you may see a familiar face -- or trigger finger!

"I love it when a plan comes together!"

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Getting IN the Room

The goal of every actor out here is of course to act, to be working.  But, before that can happen, you've got to get in the room.  The Audition Room.  You have to get in front of casting directors, so that they can see your talent and hopefully put you in front of producers/directors either in person or on tape.  This 'getting in the room' is one of the bigger challenges actors face.  And once you get in the room, the challenge is doing well enough that you will be brought back in the future... 

A friend from back home (big thanks, Marcus!) recently got me in touch with a casting director out here, Sara Isaacson, who was looking for somewhat to help her out with taping audition sessions.  I gladly jumped at the opportunity to see the casting process from the other side!  And though it wasn't my own audition, it is still good to get in the room to see other actors work, see a CD go through her process, etc.  I went in last Friday to tape a session and then I returned Monday as well to help out.  It was very, very insightful, but I must admit a little intimidating and depressing.  Not the session itself; that was a lot of fun to see -- many talented actors all bringing different things to the same roles, the CD and director giving things to the actors to try (some of which works wonderfully, and some not so much...) 

The actual intimidating part was what Sara showed me prior to the session.  She gave me a brief overview of the way her process works as far as sending out the breakdowns and then deciding who to bring in from agent/manager submissions.  This particular audition session was for a network web series, so Sara said the submission numbers were less than say for a network TV show (she spent many years on ER and also works on Fringe), but there were still hundreds!  Hundreds of tiny headshots that she had to scroll through -- at a very fast clip -- looking for who to bring in.  And, of course, unless she knows you or your work, she's not going to waste one of the few coveted time slots on you. 

So, I was able to see firsthand just how important it is to 1) have representation -- without that, you don't even make it into the hundreds of submissions 2) build relationships with casting directors -- so when a tiny picture of your head pops up amongst the throng of photos on their submission pages, they stop and think, "hmm... yeah, maybe he'd be good for this, I should bring him in..." and 3) kick some butt when you get in that room!  if you aren't GREAT, or memorable in a good way, why would they call you in down the road?

The experience of helping Sara out has also made me realize how important it is to be driving your own career.  Yes, it is vital to get representation and to get solid credits, but instead of just waiting for those to happen, you really need to be doing your own thing in the meantime -- theatre, web stuff, shorts, doing anything with the talented people around you that showcases your abilities...


Monday, April 12, 2010

Inspiration on Four Legs

I spotted this canine at a stoplight yesterday.  And hey, if this champ isn't going to let a giant cone around his head stop him from doing his dog thing, i.e. sticking his head out the window of a moving car, how can I let any of the many obstacles in my path (or wrapped around my head!) stop me from doing my thing?!?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Class With Class

My acting class with actor/writer/director Paul Kampf is one of the highlights of my week.  It is consistently challenging and engaging, and it has made me an infinitely better, more truthful actor.  Just how I managed to find Paul and begin studying with him was quite serendipitous.  I may have relayed this story before, but if so it's been awhile, so here goes again...

Just days after moving to L.A. from Chicago, I received a phone call from a theatre director in Chicago, Kristin Schmidt -- who I had auditioned for once several months before ---who was now offering me a part in a new show she was putting up.  While I appreciated the offer, I told her I had just driven out to California to try my luck in LaLa Land.  During the call she mentioned that if I was looking for a class out here (and already I had heard horror stories about the difficulty of finding the right class in L.A...), I should get in touch with one of her theatre colleagues named Paul Kampf, who also recently made the move here from Chicago to transition into the film side of things.  I didn't know Paul personally in Chicago, but I was familiar with the theatre company he ran: Breadline Productions -- which he has since transplanted here as well.

Kristin gave a phone number for Nina, one of her friends who was taking class with Paul, and the next day I called her.  I asked Nina about the style of the class and Paul as a teacher.  She only had good things to say and put me in touch with Mr. Kampf.  We chatted over the phone and it sounded like I would really enjoy the class; one which seemed to have precisely the mix of practical exercise work, audition technique, and on-camera time that I was looking for.  He suggested I take his 6-week workshop to see if we would work well together, and if our ideas on acting would mesh.  Needless to say, our ideas did mesh, and I have been fortunate enough to work with Paul both as a student and occasionally under his direction as an actor for about two years.  Those experiences -- in class and on set -- have been among the most artistically fulfilling of my life, and there I have met some of the very best friends I've made on the Left Coast.

I'm very grateful that Kristin called that day way back when... I can't say enough about how I've grown as an actor since I began working with Paul.  I feel freer on stage, I have more confidence in the audition room, and I have learned many practical exercises and techniques that help in my preparation.  Anyway, if you're an actor in L.A. looking for a good, solid class that will inspire and engage you, or even if you need private coaching before that big audition, I would highly recommend checking Paul out.  He still runs occasional one-day workshops and has an upcoming 4-week intensive in May, both of which are good ways to test things out.  Oh, he also recently started a blog about the craft: The Right to Act.  If you have any questions about his class, or you'd like me to put you in touch with Paul, let me know! 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dancing at Cal Tech

We went to see our friend, Omi, in the Cal Tech Dance Show last night.  Omi doesn't go there, but she takes dance classes on campus.  Now, you wouldn't think of the traditional bastion of heavy science as a promoter of the arts, but the show was a lot of fun.  The crowd was rowdy -- must have all been on a break from their labs ;) -- and many types of dance were represented: ballet, hip-hop, swing, and Korean traditional to name several.  The school is right over in Pasadena, and I'd like to go back sometime during the day to walk around what seemed to be a very pretty campus.  Anyway, you rocked it, Omi!

Friday, April 9, 2010

"Nobody Knows Anything"

That was famously said of Hollywood, but I think it also applies to sports -- especially the NCAA tourney.  Kentucky, Villanova, Syracuse out early? Cornell to the Sweet 16? Butler into the Final? 

Every year I run a little family pool, and this year the person who likes sports the least of anyone I know, my sister Jennifer, won the whole thing.  So, congratulations Jenny for getting two Final Four teams right, picking Duke to win it all and beating all the "experts" in the family.  When it comes to sports knowledge, she may have proved she's no longer a nobody...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal

While I wish I was in a Milwaukee parking lot outside Miller Park this morning downing beer and sauerkraut (best ever early April weather I hear!), alas I must watch my beloved Brewers from afar.  Today is Opening Day 2010 -- a true holiday for baseball fans everywhere.  So, enjoy America's game wherever you are, and for Cubs fans, there's always next year!

2010 Predictions:
AL East - Yankees
AL Central - Twins
AL West - Angels
AL Wildcard - Red Sox

NL East - Phillies
NL Central - Cardinals
NL West - Rockies
NL Wildcard - Braves

World Series -- Yankees over Phillies

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Shakes

Happy Easter everyone!  Since I don't have family here, many family traditions have gone by the wayside.  But, they are replaced by new ones! So now, Easter Church/Brunch has been replaced by pick-up softball.  We had a good turnout of 15-16 people and played for 2-3 hours.  The weather was perfect -- nice and cool -- it was a lot of fun.

Now back home, Art and I were treated to an Easter earthquake.  It was a long slow rolling one that lasted for about 10 seconds.  Art just slept through it, but I picked him up in case we had to make a run for it (exactly where we would run if it were a bad one, I have no idea ;)  First reports say it was a 6.9 down in Baja, just south of the border.

Hope each of you is enjoying the holiday -- blessings to all!


Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring is Springing

It appears that spring is in full bloom here in SoCal.  The flowers in my backyard are bright and colorful, as are these brilliant purplish-pink guys right outside my door.  Not that any plants really 'die,' or go out of season here, but it is still nice when they are back at full strength -- must mean baseball season is right around the corner!