Saturday, January 24, 2009

Opportunities Right Under Your Nose... or Fork

I just closed a deal to provide voice over services for a sub-contracting company. Essentially, when another third-party company contacts them seeking someone to be their voice on the phone or via other voice recordings, I might be the sub-contracted voice they pick.

While not a huge score in the short run, I am very excited as this is likely to be a relatively steady source of work in the future. Perhaps equally exciting for me is how I came across this opportunity - I sought it out as opposed to responding to an ad.

At least a dozen times over the past year, I have looked over the ad-mats you get at diners. About half of those times, I have torn off an ad or two that were of particular interest and shoved them in my pocket. The job I just mentioned was a result of sending an inquiry to one of those companies.

At the end of the day, any positive, paying gig is a good thing. I'm really happy to have lined up this new opportunity and look forward to the additional possibilities that it may bring.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Foresight and Hindsight, Colliding

As I mentioned in my last post, there isn't much point in auditioning if you're in a frame of mind and body that you can't pull it off. I wrote that Thursday - but apparently forgot about it by Saturday. Either that, or the opportunity was just good enough to grab up those boot straps again.

Desire to keep moving forward and excessive optimism helped me trick myself into heading into the city yesterday to audition for a great role in an upcoming feature film. The location, people and experience were great; I wasn't.

The travel had me feeling a little strange and heady upon arrival and I was having trouble connecting with the script provided. Also, auditions were running ahead of schedule so I had barely even gotten through one silent read of the script before I was asked to come in and audition with a cold read.

The casting assistant and director were cordial and polite. The casting room threw me entirely off-balance. I have never auditioned in a green screen setting before, and to do so reading cold had me a little disoriented and distracted. Sadly, I think I let it show. Ouch. Oh well.

While I don't think I'll get called for the part, I did learn some things. Mainly, I learned that I need to get better at ignoring my surroundings. Green screen or no green screen, it shouldn't have mattered. Once I made the decision to walk through that door, I should have been good to go even if there was a live studio audience and circus animals milling around.

Secondly, I could have done more to control my time and review of the script - there was one girl who was supposed to go ahead of me who was reading the script when I got there. She felt unprepared to go, and I deferred to her to be nice. I should have held my ground.

Whatever happens, this was the biggest thing I've auditioned for to date and I'm thankful I had the opportunity. While the adventure did set my health back a little bit again, I'm ultimately glad I worked through it and hope that I can apply the lessons moving forward.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sick Sucks - and Loses Parts

I've lost the better part of the last week to a raging cold that has turned into bronchitis. In all truth, the cold has lingered in weaker form for a long time but really just became an issue of late.

Hating to be sick, I've been trying to ignore it and continued to push myself. Now that I've completely burned myself out, I've been MIA from most productive activities for almost a week (save for the day job) and had to decline a couple opportunities to audition. While many would argue that you do whatever it takes when you love the craft, I have to say that there's no point in going to deliver a monologue when you are truly disgusting, contagious and without voice - unless you're auditioning for the role of a sick person!

All kidding aside, if the right opportunity was on the line, I'd grab up those boot straps again and find a way to drag myself in, but this wasn't that time. A couple days of R&R should get me back on track, but all of this could have been avoided if I'd taken care of myself to begin with.

My take-away from this, if there is one, is that I have to stop talking about being better to myself and start doing it! That includes sleeping more regularly, saying "no" when I am tapped, and using the health insurance that (thank God) I now have when I need it.

Although bonding with my couch is cool, I'm looking forward to rejoining society soon.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


We are all called upon to make choices everyday. Unfortunately, even the simplest of choices sometimes feel incredibly significant when trying to get ahead - and they may be.

On Thursday, I was blessed with conflicting opportunities to attend a casting for a hair commercial or audition for a role in an independent film. The hair commercial paid well, but I wasn't feeling overally confident as I wasn't a perfect fit for the target demographic. While also slightly out of alignment with the part I had been asked to read for the independent film, which required more travel and would be unpaid on speculation, that project seemed to promise great content and experience.

After comparing traffic reports and rethinking which project I would rather put on my reel, I opted to head out for the independent film. While still uncertain, it seemed like the more likely and ultimately more favorable thing.

The people at that audition were the coolest bunch of people I have met in entertaint to date, bar none. The audition was comfortable and, while I was deemed a little too old for the role I'd been called in for (I knew it!), I did happen to meet an agent there who shared a promising lead for another commercial that would be a national run.

At the end of the day, there were no immediate gains from my efforts, however, I did make some pleasant connections that seem to have potential for later benefit. Would the experience have been the same at the other casting? I doubt it, but who knows? All I can say is that I am happy with the choice I made.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The "In" Crowd

Point-blank, I'm not affiliated with SAG, AFTRA, AEA or any other artistic union. While I have heard pros and cons about membership in general from a variety of sources, my layman's view would suggest that being part of the "in" crowd is where it's at.

Member status seems to be a thin veil separating the haves and the have-nots, often literally in terms of separate holding rooms and food services, etc. I have been on sets where this distinction was made so bold it was almost abusive - in one epecially memorable case, the dog on set was treated better.

The sad truth is that ridiculous treatment of non-union actors is somewhat normal. Frankly, I think it's just that the insecurity of the lifestyle is such that many on the other side of the curtain sometimes get a little overzealous in exercising their superior status, as if the distance will somehow protect them in their climb.

Before anybody flames this post, I do want to clarify that I get why keeping every Tom, Dick, Harry, Molly, Sue, Jane and all of their friends from slamming through the curtain is an issue. People get a little crazy about entertainment to begin with, and I can understand how restricting the talent pool to true professionals enables more full-time actors to earn something closer to a living wage. Makes sense.

However, my suspicions about the restrictiveness of the club and its modern caste system underpinnings are confirmed by the difficulty of getting straightforward information. When I've had legitimate questions about benefits and joining, I've received little or no specific response. One union representative told me that I had to come in to the office for a meeting to get my answers; they weren't interested in responding to my email or conversing via telephone.

For better or for worse, the unions matter. While the standing conferred by membership is attractive to some - and infuriating to others who lack it - it's best not to let it get you bent out of shape either way. Rather than fight the system, I intend to keep pursuing work in a professional manner so that I may eventually join the "in" crowd. Maybe this will be the year...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Predictable Unpredictability

It has been a weird twenty-four hours.

This morning started out good but confusing as I booked an audition for a project that I submitted for about a month ago. I had honestly forgotten all about it given the time that has passed and the number of inquiries I've sent out since.

As anybody will quickly notice, most things in the entertainment industry move very quickly once the ball is rolling. Such a delay, however, is also not too surprising. Just as I was preparing to take some time off for the shoot booked from the audition following my last headshot, I've learned that project has hit a snag in funding and is experiencing a (hopefully) temporary delay.

In short, there really is no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to entertainment. By keeping many lines in the water and remaining open to what comes, I've been able to keep moving forward (or at least moving) for now.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Perseverance... Kinda

This story has a good side, and a bad side.

For the past couple weeks, I've been trying to get back in touch with an exceptionally difficult-to-get-hold of producer I worked with recently. I misplaced his cell phone number, and he is apparently allergic to email. In trying to get hold of him, I tried alternative contacts I had on hand to see if there was anything else that he may be checking and might respond.

And it worked. I heard back, but not not from him; another producer/casting director replied to an email I sent in error wanting to see me for a job.

I bet as you are reading this you are thinking, "Are you crazy? Do you really think you just happened to contact another casting director with your stupid random email?"

While that level of naivety would be bad, the truth is equally embarrassing.

The email contact wasn't random - it just happened to be for a different person I'd contacted for a different job. Although I wasn't right at that time, they have a new project and they'd like to bring me in for audition.

If there was a moral to this story, it could be stated that follow-up is a virtue. More accurately, however, I'd have to say the lesson is to keep your contacts organized.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Getting Fit

Just as I am pursuing new work opportunities in the New Year, I am also pursuing a new, healthier version of me. While feeling better is my main objective for the second goal, improving my health and overall condition can only enhance my ability to get work.

One of many tools I am using to do this is FitDay, a Web site that helps track calorie intake, exercise progress, overall nutrition and a number of other things, complete with adjustable, personalized reports.

To date, the free version seems to offer everything I need, but I can only imagine how in-depth the paid services may be given the options I've seen so far. With FitDay's help, I will have an unbiased measure of my progress to help me reach my goals. Now I just have to remember to keep up with inputting my food and exercise journal information so that the service can work!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Math of It All

One sub-goal of this project is to lay out exactly how much work is involved in breaking into entertainment. While I'm well-aware of the time and commitment required from prior efforts, I've never actually tracked and quantified the overall "costs" before.

As of January 1st, I started logging all of my auditions - not necessarily the specifics of each, but where I found them and the date that I submitted the initial inquiry. Since the New Year I have put in seven completely new inquiries with no responses to date.

Understanding that the percentages of this exercise may become incredibly embarrassing at some point, I wanted to be painfully honest and share just how much rejection is associated with this industry in a clear and tangible way. Sure, most people accept rejection as a theory, but it looks and feels a lot different when different when you're staring at umteen unanswered emails in your sent folder!

So there is stands: 7 inquiries out; 0 booked since New Year's Eve. I hope to share a perkier update soon.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Setting Things Straight

From time to time, I get asked, "Why don't you straighten your hair?" While I usually just flub back that I do sometimes (leaving out that it's for weddings), the truth is that's not who I am.

"How deep," you may be mocking - and I'd be right there with you, but I actually have a point!

It's the same reason I list my height and weight frankly, resisting the urge to cheat either up or down. Why promote an image that people are not going to see when you walk through the door? In fact, fudging your specs or failing to match your pics is probably the best way to ensure that you will not book the job.

Sure, I could straighten my hair and maybe get different gigs or be seen as more "versatile" or whatever, but I wouldn't keep it up, so why bother? I know myself better than that.

In an industry that thrives on fake, it's important to keep it real - even if it's just with yourself.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Getting Back in the Saddle

As I mentioned before, my acting efforts had a few false starts before now. If I were to break it down, I'd say there were three tries before present that were substantial enough to be true "beginnings." Each time, I saved my money, worked to get myself in decent shape and started anew with fresh photos.

As I get older, I notice that competing priorities and obligations have made it harder to focus on each start. This time, there were many reasons to delay - stress had my skin looking less-than-flawless, I hadn't been able to take up residence in the gym as I had planned, and the list goes on. But rather than hide behind those excuses, I decided to go for it.

Alexei Afonin, the creative genius behind Alexei Productions, was chosen as my ally for this like-new venture. I had come across his ad while scanning through Back Stage and really liked what I saw when I went to his site. The overall experience was great - comfortable, friendly and professional - and I was more than pleased with the results.

Armed with new tools to beat the streets and land new jobs, I auditioned and booked my first new role that night! I'm so glad I didn't wait for everything to be perfect before trying again; perfect never comes, and I've missed too many opportunities already.


It's hard to say when the acting bug bit, but I know it had started at least by the time I was eight as evidenced by my first headshot. My family lived in the sticks and my mother had driven me approximately two hours into the nearest "big city" (population at the time: roughly 97,000) as there was an open call that day that I had been begging her to go to. The event turned out to just be one of those cattle calls where they try to sell lessons and pictures to kids with stars in their eyes, but for me it felt magical.

Perhaps it's fortunate that my parents had neither the disposable time nor cash to enable my dream-chasing as we got through that experience relatively unscathed, short only a few hours time, gas and cash of an untold amount from the headshots, which followed. We didn't know about talent scams back then, but we didn't have the raw resources to make good targets, even if we had decided to go for it.

A lot of the details are fuzzy as almost twenty years have passed. Mom ran me about that day while Dad watched the store (literally) and we all rested easy, as if the headshot was some sort of magic bullet that would bring Hollywood calling.

I never got a job - or even an audition - from those first headshots. Looking back, however, I did get a lot of lessons. Perhaps the two biggest were:

1. To work in the industry, you have to go where the work is. A million headshots were not going to get me work where I was from, a town with only a post office and a stop sign to mark its very center. That day to the call marked the first of many trips that would follow, years later, until I relocated closer to NYC.

2. You have to be your own greatest advocate. I still struggle with this one, my home culture being such that any statement of competency feels like "blowing your own horn." When the sure-shot headshot didn't bring raging success, my parents advised maybe I should pack it up and move on to a more stable dream. In their defense, it was the best advice they could have given, given the realities at the time. However, there is never a shortage of people who will tell you that you're not good enough or that there's an infinite number of reasons you'll never make it. This truth is not distinct to acting as it is as valid in an office as on a stage, and you don't grow out of it. Fighting ahead despite the nay-saying really just helped me prepare for an industry in which everybody experiences a lot of rejection. If you don't think you can do it, why should anybody else?

There were many other lessons that day and many I'm still learning. On a recent call, I was asked why I'm not promoting myself better - especially given that my day job is promoting the work of others. Oops. I guess I have to revisit lesson two. My foot is in the door and I've come a long way, but I've still got a long way to go.