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2:47 am - FRI 11/15/02
\"And would you like to 'Supersize' your Diaryland entry, Mr Hoffmaster...?\"

"And would you like to 'Supersize' your Diaryland entry, Mr Hoffmaster...?"

THU 11/14/02 2:08 pm

Just got back from a visit to the ATM (Kyle and I are going to see "8 Mile" today, another recent development I haven't "caught up" with in here. But more on that later in this broadcast...).

After a couple weeks where nothing happened with my commercial agent, I had three auditions this week--a print ad for Pop Tarts, and commercials for that wacky new Discover card (The paisley-shaped one that has it's own little holder), and The Food Channel.

Of the three, the Pop Tart ad was the least fun. Like my first time out--for The National Trust--it was just going in and basically getting a mug shot. No "getting to know you" chat, no acting, no charm, nothing. Just being a face and a body, then back out the door, with no feeling of having really done anything (Since there isn't any acting involved, there's not even anything to feel afterwards, in terms of whether you nailed it or blew it or whatever).

But getting the call for that, and how I responded to it, might give you some insight into my tormented inner workings...

It was Monday, and I checked my voicemail around 1:30 (I was supposed to work at 3:30). There was a message from JS--my agency--which had been left at 11:30, saying there were auditions for a Pop Tart print ad in Studio City that afternoon, from 2:30 to 5:30.

My first response was to immediately go into "maximum stress-out" mode; I'd been told same-day calls were very rare, but here I was getting one my second time out of the gate, and with no time to give the bookstore any real notice.

I paced my apartment. I cursed the fact that I'm not independently wealthy and have to work for a living. I gauged my discomfort with calling in sick, when I was not in fact "sick" at all (Unless you count being "sick at heart" over the conflict I was experiencing). I thought about what a pain-in-the-ass it is to be at the bookstore when someone calls out.

And I called the agency...and said I wouldn't be able to make the audition.

I hung up the phone. I paced my apartment some more, feeling, if anything, even more stressed; What could I be thinking, to turn down only the second audition I've gotten from this agency (And how many times could I do that before they'd invite me to go away)?

I thought about how I've only called out at the bookstore maybe three times in the past year-and-a-half (Actually, I think it's only been two times; One time was actually a personal day I applied for in advance). I thought about how little thought other people probably give to calling out and inconveniencing their coworkers. I thought about the potential payoff from getting the gig (At a minimum, I could probably pay all my bills for the month off of what I'd make). And I thought, "I didn't come to LA to work at Borders".

So I called JS back...and said I could go out on the audition after all.

And I called Borders...and said I was "sick" (In the future, I think I'm just going to tell the truth; I don't want to paint myself as "Saint Jim" here, but for whatever reason, I am tremendously uncomfortable with lying).

(Brad E. took the call at work. He made it obvious by his tone that he didn't believe me and wasn't very happy about it, but by that point, my course was set.)

So I got directions to the casting agency off of Mapquest, and made my way to Studio City.

Driving when I don't quite know where I'm going scares the crap out of me! Trying to read my directions, keep an eye on the street signs, keep pace with the traffic, and figure out where to park, leaves me feeling like at any given moment I'm a second away from disaster.

But I did manage to get there in one piece, parking in front of a broken meter, it turned out (Does anyone know the legal ramifications of that sort of thing? I mean, I didn't break the meter, after all, but are you supposed to just move on if the meter's broken?).

(Another parking note--At the casting agencies I've been to so far, there are signs on the door forbidding actors from parking in their lot. Just so you know where you stand in the great scheme of things...)

I'm realizing that while I've been getting to these things "early", my "early" isn't really "early" enough; The process seems to be that you sign in, fill out the union call sheet, one or two cards with your name, number, agency, sizes, etc, usually someone takes a polaroid, (But it seems S.O.P. to give them a headshot anyway), and then you wait to be called in. So if you get there on time, you're actually late, if you get there ten or fifteen minutes early, you're just about on-time, and genuinely "early" probably starts about 30 or 40 minutes before your appointment time.

Anyway, I was called in within minutes after I finished my paperwork, they took my picture, and I was back out the door (Have I mentioned that being such a non-entity really bothers me?).

I got back to my car, and took the highway back home (I'd gone the surface street route on the way there. I prefer to do that, but I think I need to get over it. The highway really is easier and faster). .

Then I was back to pacing my apartment. At that point, I was only a half-hour into my working day, and it seemed stupid to twiddle my thumbs the rest of the day, while my coworkers had to deal with my absence (And it really is a major pain; In the evening, there's basically one person per each area of the store--registers, cafe, music, and main info--so one person being gone is a serious trauma).

But if I called, it would be obvious I wasn't really "sick" after all (Even though, like I said, Brad E. sounded pretty skeptical in the first place).

So I called, asked for the service manager, and fortunately, that hour it was John O.

I "fessed up", and told him I was coming in. He didn't seem at all troubled by my deception, just glad I was coming in (And when I got there, and had a chance to talk to John, he let me know he wasn't going to make any issue of what had happened, but to keep that to myself).


(11:00 pm)

To continue...

While I was at work, I called home to check my messages, and there was another message from the agency; Jon said there were two auditions tomorrow, and he "hoped I'd be able to make both of them" (There was one for Discover at 11:20 am, just a couple blocks from work, and another for The Food Channel, in Santa Monica, at 3:15. I was supposed to work at 3:30 the next day).

Well, it was as if I hadn't learned anything from the day's experience; In a way, it exciting to get two auditions the very next day, but I did the same little stressed-out dance of indecision I'd done before, and called the agency--It was closed, but I left a message on the machine--saying I'd be able to do the first audition, but not the second.

Afterwards, I went into the back room for something, and Mark B. was there. He asked me how things were going, and I told him about the audition I'd just had, and the message I'd just gotten from the agency.

We talked for awhile about it; I was sort of going over my conflicts about it all--all the stuff I'd gone through the first time around--while Mark was basically saying I just had to do it.

Later, when I was having my dinner break, John called me into his office; I went in, and he said, " when do you need to come in tomorrow?".

He'd been in the back room, out of sight but not out of earshot, when Mark and I had been having our conversation (He said, "I'm pretty sure Mark knew I was there...", which would be pretty weird; After all, I was the one expressing a genuine moral/ethical dilemma, while Mark was basically all about "Screw Borders...").

Anyway, he changed the schedule for the next day, so I'd be coming in a 6:00, and not 3:30 (During the midday hours, missing a person is not quite as big a deal; It's only in the early morning or later evening hours when it's really critical)

I expressed my profound gratitude, and he said something I really liked, to the effect of "If you can't be nice to nice people, what's the point?" (Like myself, I think John has some frustration with the way things work a lot of the time--How the unreasonable customer pitches a fit and gets what they want while the nice, polite customer loses out, that sort of thing--and he likes to redress that imbalance whenever he can).

He also said something he's said before, which is that he really admires what I did in coming out here. In short, he said, I'm his "hero"--a notion that both amuses and embarrasses me--and that he'll help me out however he can.

And all I can say about that is "Who's really the 'hero' here...?".

So on Tuesday morning, I drove to work, getting there around 10:30 or so, parked in the lot, and walked to my first audition of the day, for Discover Card, just a couple blocks away on SanVicente.

This was my third commercial audition since signing with JS Represents, and the first one that was actually kind of fun. I felt like an actor for the first time (Hell, it was the first one where I felt human!); The casting director actually talked to me, and was very nice, and there was finally something for me to do (I had to swipe my credit card at the grocery store, then at a restaurant, then use it to defend myself against a ninja attack).

Unfortunately, I screwed it up.

See, here's the thing ----I didn't know the premise of the ad till I got there, and a minute after I got my paperwork done, I was called in for the audition, with no real time to think about what I was going to do. I kind of fixated on the "ninja" thing, so when the time came, I just got out my card, did a "hi-YA!", and did faux-karate stuff with the card in hand till he told me to stop (And he immediately had me do it again, with no direction or time to think about it, and much to my regret, all I did was the same thing I'd done the first time, which was really, really stupid; I had a chance to show him something else, and all I did was show him my wrong idea twice).

The other thing it would have been nice to know beforehand was that the Discover Card in question was not just your usual Discover Card; It was the new Discover Card, the wacky, paisley-shaped one you can flip out from its own little holder, that's designed to go on your keychain.

If I had understood that, I think I would have made an infinitely better choice. In fact, I know I would have; If you have a thing that kind of "flips out" from a little holder, like a switchblade popping out from its handle, then you use it like a switchblade. That makes sense comically, and more importantly, it puts the card front-and-center, not me pretending I'm Jackie Chan.

But I didn't know. So I didn't do that. And I lost out.

That experience was what made me think I need to get to these things early enough to fill out my paperwork and have time to think about the spot in question (If there's copy, or in this case, physical action for me to think about). And if they call me in before I've had a chance to do that, to ask for a moment to look things over.

I also realized that I'm going to have to get a lot better at thinking fast; On the drive back home is not the time you want to have your great idea about how to handle the material. I'm not being "down on myself" here. I'm a funny guy, after all. I'm just going to have be funny quicker.

The commercial audition in the afternoon, for the Food Channel, was more basic. It was just a guy feeding birds in the park.

I'd gotten direction, for both surface streets and the highway, but when the time came, opted to take the bus. It's not something you can do when you're in a rush, but it was very easy, and there was no fear I was going to run a red light or rear end someone as I was looking down at my Mapquest directions.

The guy who videotaped me was pretty funny, and even though he was overtly bored and tired of what he was doing--And who wouldn't be? It couldn't have been very scintillating viewing, after all--I felt like he was treating me like a person and not just meat.

That said, he specifically directed me against trying to do anything funny or unusual or anything like that. He just wanted me to be feeding the birds, as realistically as I could (He had little wads of paper for people to use as "birdseed"). So I did what he asked, and had the feeling again that this, like the first two things I went out for, was just going to boil down to a "look", and for whatever reason, I found myself doubting I had the "look" in question (Maybe because I've never seen anyone my age feeding birds. It always seems to be either old people or little kids).

So I sort of felt like it was cool that I had two commercial auditions in the same day (And later, Mark said he'd never booked two auditions in a day during his time with JS), but I didn't feel like either one of them was very likely to result in my first paying commercial gig.

But I did sort of feel, at least with the auditions that involved more than getting my picture taken, that I was starting to get the idea, starting to realize what I'll need to do to get a job.

Because Jim wants the job.

(Well, believe it or not, I still haven't gotten to everything I want to say in here. But I think I'm going to close for now, because I'm tired and I've probably tried the patience of even my most die-hard "fans", and write about the outing with Kyle next time...)


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