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11:08 am - Fri 12/17/04
The Lull Begins

The Lull Begins

Thurs 12/16/04 (1:30 a.m.)

Well, I don't want to "jump the gun", but we seem to have hit the dreaded pre-Xmas lull, in terms of commercial auditions.

But this is not going to be an entry about how sad it is that I haven't had an audition this week (And probably won't have an audition now till after the new year), because the previous five or six weeks have been just crazy.

From the beginning of last month till now, I've had 13 auditions, and booked three gigs (Jack-In-The-Box, the G.E. extra thing, and a "spec commercial" for a director's "reel"). And that makes it, without a doubt, the most successful period of time I've had out here.

The "spec" was something I was very stressed-out about, because the audition was this past Friday for a job on Sunday, with no chance to give any real notice at the bookstore (I left a note for the GM on Friday night, who was going to be in on Saturday morning, to say that I'd be out on Sunday). In fact, I was so stressed-out about it that I almost turned the job down, before realizing that–Say it along with me–I didn't come out to L.A. to work in a bookstore.

But seriously, that's a very rough position for me to be in; I don't want to turn auditions down (In part because I'm afraid of J.S., and in part because...well, because I just don't want to turn auditions down), but by the same token, I'm uncomfortable playing fast and loose with the bookstore, both because it's "the steady money"–such as it is--and also because it just feels wrong, and I really want to be "a good guy".

And to be honest? The money–at $200 for what was scheduled to be a 12 hour day–was something of a letdown after my last two jobs.

(Turned out JS could have cared less whether I took the job or not–It was such small potatoes he wasn't even taking a cut–and the G.M. at the bookstore, while probably not thrilled, didn't really give me any grief about it. I was the only one who was getting bunched-up over the situation.)

Anyway, I decided "an actor's gotta do what an actor's gotta do" and took the gig. And I'm glad I did–It's not quite accurate to describe these things as "fun", exactly (The day goes on too long, and there's too much waiting-around), but it was certainly more fun than Borders. And, small payday notwithstanding, it was still better money than I would have seen over 12 hours at the bookstore.

Fri 12/17/04 (4:37 a.m.)

Where was I...?

The commercial Sunday was for Canadian Bank. We shot downtown in the safe deposit area of Crocker Bank, on Spring Street (Downtown is a popular shoot location; I shot one day of the Time-Warner commercial there, and before that, the Incubus video. It's nice for me–very convenient-- because it's about a five minute drive from my apartment).

In the commercial, I was playing a shady-looking customer you're supposed to think is going to rob the bank. But in an amusing twist, the bank employees rob me, along with all the other customers ("Tired of getting ripped off by your bank...?"). There were a dozen actors in the spot, playing bank employees and customers.

This was a much smaller, lower budgeted affair than G.E., but the up side of that was that within two hours of getting there, we were dressed and shooting stuff. They didn't have the time and money to screw around.

I was a little jealous of the people playing bank tellers, because they were getting to play with the cool prop guns, and act like tough guys, improvising their profanity-laced, "This is a robbery!" dialogue (They're going to bleep any cursing).

My favorite gun was a cool, nickel-plated 45. Or it could have been a Baretta (I don't know anything about guns, really). The machine gun and the pump-action shotgun were pretty cool too, although the fact that the pump on the shotgun didn't actually work was a little disappointing (It was very unprofessional of me, but I took the opportunity at one point to handle one of the prop guns. It was interesting–heavier than a toy gun, but not as heavy as a real gun. And that made sense to me–You want the thing to look and feel real for the actor, and be sturdy enough to hold up against a lot of handling, but not be so heavy it's exhausting to deal with over the course of a shoot day. Of course, none of the guns were loaded, even with blanks, or else I wouldn't have been screwing around).

I talked some with the other actors, but we didn't have call sheets, and the actors "holding area" was just off to the side of the set, so we had to keep conversation to a minimum most of the time, so I didn't feel like I got to know anyone very well (The downside of one-day commercial shoots).

But when people were talking, it struck me, and not for for the first time, that actors do a lot of pissing and moaning. A lot. In fact, it's so prevalent it seems to be "the coin of the realm".

It's something I want to watch out for, especially complaining about the job you're doing right then. I understand if you have funny stories about other shoots you've been on–I imagine every job has its "war stories"-- but whining about the shoot you're on seems like really bad news–It makes you look bad, and poisons the atmosphere (On pretty much every shoot I've been on so far, there's been a point where I wanted to say to another actor, "C'mon man! You're wrecking my buzz here...!").

My attitude at this point during any day on the set is "I'm making more than I would be at the bookstore..." (Which of course is even more the case if the shoot's happening on one of my days off). And it always strikes me that, while I may not be doing a hit movie or starring in my own tv show, a lot of actors at any given time would want to change places with me, because I'm working. But anyway...

Considering that it was a low-budget shoot, they did pretty well by us, in terms of the food. When we got there, there was a table of coffee and juice and donuts and breakfast bars and fruit and such, then someone went to McDonalds and bought an assortment of breakfast sandwiches.

Lunch was catered, and was just as good as some of the bigger budgeted things I've done (I've noticed that I tend to gravitate towards the chicken entrees at these things). And they had stuff to snack on throughout the day.

(At the GE shoot, it really hit me–As I get more successful, the craft services I love could become a real problem. A table full of lots of fattening food, and a whole lot of time to nosh, seems like a recipe for disaster. I have to remember-Just because it's free, that doesn't mean I have to eat it.)

My "moment in the sun" in terms of the shoot came pretty early, when they did a couple takes of me "casing the joint". After that, I was either being robbed, or hanging out in the holding area., waiting to be robbed.

They were about to release me around 7:00 p.m., but then they called me back in–I was in the parking lot, about to drive away-- to shoot an additional scene, a little moment where one of the tellers– a gay latino guy--tries to knock me out with the butt of his gun, then runs off as I rub the back of my head and look around to see who hit me (Kind of a funny bit, but it didn't really seem to fit in with anything else we'd done).

Mostly, I thought the spot was pretty well-conceived, but they shot a bit at one point that I thought was too much: As a young mother pleads–"Don't hurt my baby, don't hurt my baby..."–she gets back-handed by one of the tellers, which I thought was too serious-looking and ugly compared to the rest of the spot (My being threatened by a security guard who's half my size is kind of funny, and the nice old grandmother who pulls a shotgun on the chunky, middle-aged guy looking to get a loan was a riot. And that violence was only threatened. But obviously, it's not my call).

When we did actually wrap, I had a nice surprise–I don't know if another actor had asked for it, or they just offered it up without being prompted, or what, but when I signed out, they gave me $20 out of petty cash, for dry-cleaning (I was dressed in black dress pants and a black turtleneck, and along with two other actors, spent most of my time getting up and down off the floor while being "robbed").

All in all, a good day. Like I said, I would rather have been one of the tellers–they had the fun parts–but it beat being at the bookstore, and who knows? Maybe the director shops this around, someone sees it, and they say, "Hey, who's that interesting-looking guy in black...?"

It could happen.

(9:49 a.m.)

So that, in all likelihood, was "the last hurrah" for commercials in 2004.
Even though I started out saying this wasn't going to be an entry about how sad I am that I haven't had any auditions this week, and that I won't have any more till into the new year, last night I found myself thinking "What am I going to look forward to over the next couple weeks...?".

It's taken me forever to get my shit together on this–and it still isn't as together as I'd like it to be (Why haven't I gotten to Cinema Prints and gotten copies of my new headshots? Why am I still sending out the old ones?)–but yesterday, I started doing my latest "agent mailing" (Well, I guess when I get the new headshots printed up, that could be an excuse to do another mailing sometime in the new year).

Part of "getting my shit together" involved buying a new printer. The old one was spitting out these blotchy looking copies, and nothing the printer manual told me to do helped.

Still, I feel vaguely guilty about it, like I'm being a spendthrift. But what can I do? I have to have a printer that actually works, for updating my resume and for all those cover letters I have to do (For awhile, I was sending out headshots without any cover letter, but that's really "bad form". I didn't "get" that for awhile–I thought, "What am I going to tell you in a cover letter that you can't imply from the fact that I've sent you a headshot? It's just a waste of time and paper"–But now I do "get it"; Not including a cover letter comes off like you can't even be bothered to "introduce yourself", and is very impersonal. And I don't know if it really matters or not, but you might want to have a prospective director or agent know that you can string a few sentences together in a semi-professional manner).

I also had to get new resumes printed up, with "SAG" displayed under my name (Since that, after all, was the entire impetus for doing a new mailing).

I initially typed "SAG Eligible"–because I'm not actually in the union yet, and I'm basically an honest guy-- then remembered something I'd read that said you should just write "SAG" (Because why tell prospective agents or employers that you're a neophyte, when essentially you are SAG, and it's just a matter of going down to the office and plunking down your $1400?).

After that, I'm going to compile my "stats" for the year, and then I guess just relax, hang out, and look forward to what the coming year has to offer (I've decided already that next year will be the year I get a theatrical agent, and book my first tv and movie roles. Beyond that, I'm up for any other positive things that might happen).


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