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3:03 pm - Monday, Feb. 26, 2007
The Comcast Promo Shoot
(Got back online yesterday--Someone from the FreeNet called me, and my Internet problem turned out to be a ridiculously simple fix--so here's what I've been "saving up" to post online. It's long, but I think some of it edges up toward "interesting"...)

Fri 2/23/07 (7:39 a.m.)

The Comcast Promo Shoot

(Haven’t been able to get online since Wednesday night, so don’t know when I’ll actually get to post this entry. But anyway...)

My three-day long Comcast shoot wrapped last night (And it was a long three days–twelve hours yesterday and Tuesday, with a relatively short ten hours on Wednesday–but thoughts of overtime went a long way towards “easing the pain”).

The whole thing was shot at Downey Studios, maybe a 25 minute drive from L.A. (Though when we wrapped on Wednesday, getting out right at evening rush hour, it took me over an hour to get home, not counting parking).

Matt (the “Tour Guide” in the spots, and in this case, acting as “tour guide” in real life), told me the studio used to be a Boeing plant, where they built airplanes, and later, the Space Shuttle. So as you might imagine, we’re talking about a pretty big space.

And that “big space” came in handy, because this was easily the biggest-budgeted project I’ve been involved in so far–I lost count of how many actors and extras were there over the course of the three days (In addition to the “tour members”–or “the tram people”, as we came to be called–there were “drones” in bright yellow jumpsuits, army men, and individual actors dressed in too many costumes to list here; everything from Arab sheiks and Mexican banditos to zombies, ninjas, “Conan the Barbarian”, and a “Yeti” who was not very happy with his stylist).

There was also a camel named “Lilly” on Wednesday, and an elephant named “Daisy” yesterday, not to mention a smashed police car (That I think they were going to set on fire as I was leaving on Wednesday), and an army tank.

This is not to mention all the crew, and more equipment than I’ve ever seen in one place, along with a gaggle of ad people at a bank of tables, with laptops and monitors and what-have-you, overseeing the whole thing.

The director was Roman Coppola (And yes, he’s one of those Coppolas–He was second-unit director on Lost In Translation, one of my favorite movies of recent years, directed by his sister Sofia).

He bore a passing resemblance to the actor Chris Noth (“Big” on Sex & The City), and was always well put-together–He definitely looked like someone who “comes from money”. But I was more impressed by his demeanor than anything else–Other than to yell “action!” a few times (Rhonda–the AD?--usually called it), I never heard him raise his voice, or sound at all angry or anxious at any point during the process, and I was impressed with that, especially considering the scale of the production, and...well, let’s just say that’s not always the way it goes.

(I’m trying to figure out how to proceed from here...)

I’ve probably made this sound pretty damned interesting so far, haven’t I?

And being in the environment was interesting, to be sure–“Fellini-esque” kept coming to mind–but the actual shooting?

Very dull.

I basically spent three days riding on a bright yellow tram, with the “Tour Guide” and my fellow “Tour Members”--I was “Tour Member #2" (My third “#2" role, if you’re counting)--going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, as we did take after take.

My fellow “tram people”, as we were called on-set (Matt, Emily, John, Kyle, Ted, Moon, and then Moon’s replacement, when she called out sick on the last day of the shoot) were a very nice lot, for the most part. Unlike some things I’ve done, where people seem actively unhappy to be there, everyone on this set seemed to appreciate the fact that they were working (And that’s a very appropriate response to the situation, since, on any given day, most actors in L.A. are not working).

Most of the interesting things you’ll see if/when you see the spots, we were not actually seeing–they were “inserts”–and I had to do even less “acting” than I imagined when hearing I’d booked the gig (I thought the “tour members” would be “reacting” more to the weird goings-on, but that was kept to a minimum; we were more “set dressing” than anything). So even though I’ve been telling myself not to expect to get my rocks off as an actor during these things, I was still disappointed.

Having lost out on playing the “Tour Guide” myself, I might have had an initial, ever-so-slight “Show Me” attitude with Matt, the actor who got the part. But ultimately, I could see why he got it–he was non-threateningly pleasant-looking, as opposed to whatever-it-is-I-look-like (He looked way more like a “tour guide” than I do, particularly for something entertainment-related), and he had a very low-key vibe that is just not my natural mode when addressing a group. I can’t help but try to be “entertaining” when put in front of people, and I don’t think that’s what they were going for in the spots. They weren’t looking for a “pitchman” in the role (When I first read the spots, I saw the “Tour Guide” as the “hero”. But while it’s true he’s the only one with lines, it was apparent during shooting that the real “hero” of the spots are all the weird things going on).

So anyway, actually doing the spots was pretty boring. Which was tough, because who likes being bored, after all? It’s something I’ve wrestled with all my life-boredom--and it seems I’m never going to escape it.

And I’m uncomfortable saying that, because I imagine people reading this and thinking I’m “ungrateful” or “impossible to satisfy” or “negative” or what-have-you (“He’s just never going to be happy, no matter how much he succeeds...”).

But I think it’s more complicated than that. I’ve made the point before–this is not, for the most part, “acting”, and not what I came out here to do.

But at the same time, I appreciate that I make really good money doing these things (That’s not to be sneezed at, by any stretch). It’s more money than I’ve ever made doing anything, and after a lifetime of working crap jobs for crap pay, that is huge (The overtime alone on this job will be more than I make in two weeks at ArcLight. And that’s before the session fee, and any residuals/buy-outs that come my way).

It’s me on a set, working, hanging out with actors and people “in the business”, and eating good food (Eating too much good food, in this case; It’s really tough when it’s free, it’s there all day long–in between meals, there are tables full of snacks set out--and you’re tired and bored with nothing but time on your hands. If you can withstand that level of temptation, congratulations–You’re officially a stronger person than I am).

Acting aside, and knowing how nice it was to be making money, and scarfing down free food, something happened near the end of the shoot cast that cast a bit of a pall on the proceedings...

It was stupid really...I was telling my fellow “tram people” during a break how someone who reads Diaryland (Hi Randy!) told me of the “Maytag Repairman” thing (The company is making a contest out of finding their new spokesperson, and Randy thought I might want to know about it, if I didn’t already. Which I didn’t).

The story was pretty simple, really–I found out about the thing, debated whether it was something I wanted to go for (the lure of big money vs. the fear of big-time typecasting), then had the decision taken out of my hands when I went home and couldn’t get online anyway (When I did check out the website, a day or two later, I found out L.A. auditions had come and gone a week before)–but this simple story got tangled up with people’s interjections and asides and what-have-you, when it was really more of a “solo act”.

Anyway, as I was trying to get to “the moral of the story” (Something about getting a message from the Universe that “this was not something I was meant to do..”), Emily laughed and said under her breath “this is a long story...”

Now, I’d been “crushing” on Emily all day long–She was very pretty (A DNA mash-up of Katherine Heigl and Jennifer E., two of my favorite women currently on the planet), and I’d been enjoying the rapport she had with Kyle, the 12 year old girl who was her “daughter” in the spot (More big sister/little sister than mother/daughter, but really fun to watch)

So anyway, even though she was too young (30 year olds are now “too young” for me. How did this happen...?), too pretty, too married, and basically too everything for me, I at least wanted her to like me, to think I was “funny” or “cool” or what-have-you. It didn’t seem like “too much to ask” in that situation.

So while I should have just blown-off the comment, perhaps made a self-deprecating remark, or laughed and said “screw you”, I didn’t. Instead, I was caught by surprise, stung by the remark, and I responded badly (I didn’t curse at her or punch her in the mouth or anything like that. I just pouted, like a big 45-year-old baby).

It was a bad way to end things, and one thing I’ve had to do in the time since is work to not make the whole three days about what was essentially a socially awkward half-hour or so (because ultimately, what does it matter if this woman, who I’ll likely never work with again, sees me as the “life of the party” or a stone-cold bore?)

So anyway, there it was (If you feel like this story has gone on for a long-time, take heart–We’re “in the home stretch”)

The experience was basically another “mixed bag”. On the one hand, it was really boring, and I was very tired all three days (I think that had a very big impact on how I experienced the shoot–tedium can be agonizing when you’re already dead-on-your-feet). But I enjoyed putting another notch on my commercial gun-belt, I enjoyed the food and the people (other than the previously discussed little “glitch” with the lovely Emily), it was kind of cool seeing what was going into the commercial (How often do I get to use the word “Fellini-esque” in a Diaryland entry?), and, last but not least, I enjoyed the idea of extending the time I don’t have to worry about money.

Sun 2/25/07 (11:03 a.m).

Here’s how I can tell I’m addicted to getting calls for auditions–On Friday, I had an audition for E.R. (A one-line bit), yesterday I had an audition for Jiffy Lube (Another of those “fun spots” I want because it involves getting paid and getting to do a little bit of acting), and tomorrow I have an audition for Burger King...and I’m still not satisfied.

After three days work, I have three auditions in a row. It’s hard to see how you could ask for more in my position.

And yet here I am, asking.

(3:20 p.m.)

Talked to Cary earlier.

We’ve been trying to get together, so I could take him and Kay to ArcLight on one of my nights off (It would be nice to share with them some of the few benefits I get from ArcLight–namely, free movies and a half-off discount in the cafe). But this past week, I had the Comcast thing, and this week, he has a deadline to meet on a screenplay he’s working on.

But it was great talking to him (I also talked to Kay briefly before she put him on). He’s been a really good friend to me since I got out here, and talking to him always helps me “de-pressurize” when I’m feeling a tad challenged by circumstances (And I hope I provide at least something of the same service for him).

(We’re going to shoot for a get-together next week.)

I am feeling “challenged” by my circumstances lately...

While it’s been nice to be able to pay bills without undue strain–and even put a little something in my savings account and my IRA–I’ve been surprised and disappointed to feel minimal relief from the financial anxiety that’s dogged me the past number of years. I’ve just gone from worrying about how I’m going to pay bills in a given month, to worrying over when the current flow of money will run dry.

Right now, the “Bahamavention” commercial is still running, so there’s that.

And JS will be sending out the Propel “session fee” tomorrow or Tuesday (And if I’m actually in the spot when it airs–I’ve been afraid I’m going to be cut out-- there’ll be residuals from that. Which ought to be really good, cause I can’t imagine they hire three celebrities for a spot just to run it for a week on late-night cable).

And now there’s the Comcast thing (Not a huge payday–“promos” pay at a different, lower rate than regular commercials--but enough, at the very least, to pay rent and bills for a month. Maybe two or three months, if the spots make it through a couple “cycles”).

And of course, at this point, I’m still at ArcLight; since my recent run of commercial good fortune, I’ve worked less than 50 hours over each of the last two paychecks, but that’s still “rent money”, or at least pretty close.

So it's not like I'm going to go hungry or homeless anytime soon.

But I can't seem to relax.

I just wish I were managing to have more fun...


 

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