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12:46 pm - Fri 6/20/03
See Jim. See Jim act. Act, Jim, act.

See Jim.

See Jim act.

Act, Jim, act.
Weds 6/18/03 8:30 pm

Well, I don't want to get ahead of myself here, but I might, with a capital "M", be on the verge of booking another commercial.

But I need to backtrack a bit...

On Friday, I had a callback for the Kids WB spot (The one where I'm a backlot worker, responding to the arrival, via limousine, of the WB's cast of animated characters).

On the way there–It was at Chelsea Studios, on Ventura Blvd in Studio City–I remember thinking "What a difference from when I first got here..."; Early on, I had moments of pure, unadulterated terror on the freeway, but now I was just hopping on the 101 without a care in the world. I was even thinking "Gee, if you're not having to get somewhere during rush-hour, the freeway is great...".

Then I missed my exit.

And my first response was to go into a pretty hard panic. I'm not sure why–maybe it's my relative lack of freeway driving experience prior to moving here–but it takes me a long time to realize I've actually missed my exit, then a still longer time to figure out what to do about it. The idea of just turning around and going back the way I came, for whatever reason, doesn't come as second-nature to me.

Well, after the requisite screaming, crying, cursing, etc, I did turn around, and got myself going back in the right direction.

I had given myself a lot of time to get there (Mapquest is fantastic–One of those lifesavers I wouldn't have had if I'd come out here 15 or 20 years ago--but I don't take a lot of stock in their estimated travel times), so as a result of my little misadventure, I was only five minutes late, but I was still stressing-out about it. But it was cool; There was no one there but the cameraman and an assistant (I mean, no one else in the entire building, which houses at least a half-dozen casting agencies), and they weren't tapping their watches or anything like that

I filled out my size sheet, got out my headshot (Sometimes they don't need that stuff at a callback, but sometimes they do), ran to the bathroom, then I was ready to go.

At the initial casting, four of us were brought into the room at once, told at some length what he wanted us to do, then filmed one at a time doing the bit (Then at the end, he had us miming frantic activity as a group).

It gave me something I haven't had at most auditions out here–the chance to see my competition in action–and it was a real confidence-booster (More on that in a moment). I remember, as I left, thinking I'd done a good job and that it was certainly possible I'd be called back.

And I was.

But this time it was just me and the cameraman. There were no other actors boosting my confidence by doing all the wrong things, and I was still feeling stressed over the trip in, and being late when I'd expected to get there early.

The cameraman set up, had me do a slate, then told me what he wanted; First, I had to react to an animated WB logo flying around me, then he just had me making faces in the camera.

I actually think I did a better job reacting to the imaginary flying logo than I did just making faces at the camera; As I left, I remember thinking "You were moving your face around, Jim, but it wasn't coming from anyplace real..." (Granted, it's hard to instantly feel "real" emotions when your only motivation is someone saying "Now you're ‘happy'. Now you're ‘sad'. Now you're ‘angry'", etc and so on, but I'm supposed to be able to figure that sort of thing out).

So I left feeling like I hadn't done as well as I would've liked.

Then things got weird...

On my way to see Capturing the Friedmans today, I got a page from JS.

My first response was an anxious one–I had obsessively checked my voicemail the day before, for a call time for the HBO shoot, and checked again this morning shortly after I'd gotten up, but I was still afraid this was an angry call asking why the hell I wasn't on the set–but he was actually calling about the WB casting; The casting people had called him, asking why I hadn't been at the callback.

The first thing he asked–and he didn't sound accusatory. It was more like he was confirming what he already knew–was if I'd gone to the callback. And when I told him I had, he said, "I knew that was weird. I thought, ‘Jim would have called me if he couldn't make the callback...'" (I loved hearing that! Apparently, I'm now on JS's "good boy" list).

I got off the phone too quickly with JS, as I tend to do (I still get nervous talking to him), so I didn't intially understand the import of this conversation. At first, I thought "Geez, they didn't remember I was at the callback?", but then I quickly realized it was just some sort of mistake that had been made with the tape or whatever, and that it actually should be read as very positive–They were calling over two weeks after the initial audition to ask about me, which meant they remembered me pretty well.

And sure enough, when I called JS back later–Ostensibly to ask about my headshot supply, but really to get some clarification about the WB business–he confirmed that impression; He told me I was still "in there", and that he hoped he'd find out what the deal was on Thursday.

Friday 6/20/03 10:10 am

The HBO shoot was yesterday.

The location was an office building downtown, on Hope St, two or three miles away.

After some debate--Basically, the pain-in-the-ass of parking vs. getting all sweaty riding my bike--I opted to ride my bike (Taking it easy and giving myself a lot of time), and got there 15 or 20 minutes before my call time of 4:00 pm (I'd been surprised when told the call time; I'd expected an early start and a long day, like on a movie shoot).

My only regret about the whole experience was that they were having a meal break as I got there (The crew had been there since 9:30 or 10:00); It was a nice spread, but I'd already eaten and wasn't hungry, so I missed out on craft services, which is a movie/tv "perk" I get a big kick out of.

But next time...

I checked in with the A.D. (Assistant Director), and then just hung out for awhile, sitting at a table with some of the actors who were just finishing up (Actors who had been cast as "office workers" in the "watercooler conversations"). That was fun–I always enjoy that first-day feeling I get of being in the "elite" group of people who got cast for something–and I was amused when one of the guys, after I told him I'd be using my real name in the spot, said "You know somebody you know is going to see this and think, ‘I didn't know Jim had gotten into the watercooler business'...".

They couldn't use the space where my bit was shooting till after 6:00, so there wasn't a hurried feeling to the proceedings, like I'd thought there might be.

Eventually, I was led over to a trailer for wardrobe and makeup, a process which was interuppted for a bit when I was taken to a room inside the building where we were shooting to record some voiceover lines (At first, I was a little alarmed by that–I wondered for a moment if they were going to forego putting me on camera at all–but I think the way it's going to work is that things open and close with me, and then I'll have some voiceover lines in between. So basically, I'm going to be all over this commercial!). They had a number of "alternate lines" and variations on lines–I was working with the two writers of the spot--and I was a little nervous, not knowing how much flubbing was natural and how much was "amateur-hour", but it seemed to happen fairly quickly and painlessly, and I could tell everyone was feeling good about it.

Then it was back to the trailer, to finish getting dressed and made up (Another thing I like–having someone do my makeup, and fuss over my clothes). Then I basically was just waiting around, looking over changes in the copy one of the writers had given me (In addition to all the "alternate" lines, the original copy had been changed since the callback; it was essentially the same, except for some word changes here and there, and one line that had been cut).

Then shortly before 7:00, I was called to the set.

We were in the lobby of this office building. I was placed next to a watercooler, and on the wall behind me there was a large "Watercooler Association of America logo".

Then I waited. I waited for quite a while, while they worked out camera moves and set lights and all that.

Part of the time I just wandered around the set. The sound person put a body mike on me in between them needing me in position for lights, and the wardrobe people continued to tug on this and pull on that to make sure everything looked right (They had me in a nice gray suit, and I have to say, I looked pretty sharp), but mostly I just wandered around, making sure I told the A.D. when I had to go to the bathroom (There were a dozen or so extras, playing my employees, but I only had a chance to talk to two of them briefly).

When it was time to start filming, there was very little warning; I went from thinking they were still adjusting lights to hearing "Roll tape...".

Again, I was a little bit anxious, afraid I'd reveal my inexperience, and not really knowing where the line was between normal flubs, and frustrating everyone with my ineptness. But it quickly became apparent that it was going very well; I got a hand after the first take, and between takes, the wardrobe and makeup people were both commenting on how well it was going.

And you know what? After I got over those initial concerns, I was struck by how familiar it all felt. Basically, it was just acting, and I already know how to do that. I was simply playing a character, and doing a monologue out to the "audience" (Which was, in this case, the camera), and if you changed the film crew to stagehands, and the set to a stage, it was something I'd done many, many times before. The only difference was that, in this circumstance, it's not the end of the world if you screw up; You just do another take.

But more than my opinion or the crew's, the opinion I was most concerned about was the director's.

And he loved me.

He kept saying "You're very good..." and "amazing" (And at one point he added "...and I've worked with a lot of people"). He referred to me as being "very intelligent" at one point (I think because they were giving me lots of line-by-line changes), and when we were done, at 9:00, he said to an assistant "This could have gone on till midnight..." (I guess that's why the hand the crew gave me at the end of the night felt so genuine; When I expressed surprise at how soon it was over, the sound person, a pretty blonde, said "You did that", a sentiment expressed by a number of other crew people, who shook my hand, and thanked me for getting them out so early).

(It's hard to imagine anything being more appealing to a director and crew, so I was thrilled; far from being seen as an "amateur", the general consensus was that I had done exceptionally well, with what was perceived to be a lot of challenging dialogue.)

The director, Noam Murro (Who apparently directs a lot of commercials), told me, before we parted company, that he would be using me "a lot" in the future, and he told an assistant to "make sure we call Ross" (Lacey, the casting director), apparently to tell him how much they had liked me.

I hope I don't sound like I'm breaking my arm patting myself on the back here. I actually expected it to go fine–I'd told myself after being cast that the "heavy lifting" was already over–but I never expected to "rock the casbah".

But maybe the coolest thing anyone said was at the end of the night, as I was changing back into my street clothes, and doing my paperwork; I told the A.D that this was my first commercial, and he said, "Really? Well, you've got a good career ahead of you if you want it...".

And you know what? I think I do.

 

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