Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Highs and Lows

I came out of a commercial audition today kicking myself because I totally blew it. It's been a long time since I felt that way. I blame myself most of all, however I will apportion parts of the blame to two others. To the agency who in the breakdown described the character, a TV anchorman, as having "no personality." None? Really? That gives you a lot to work with. The lines were clearly written like he was a Will Ferrellesque anchor man character, but they said "no personality." Which I took to mean, either minimalize the comedy, or they don't know what they're talking about, and mean instead, "bad" personality or "pompous" personality. Turns out it was the latter.

My second excuse is that they usually have the lines up for you to read but in this case didn't, and I didn't have them completely down. But in both cases, I should have been prepared for the unexpected. A big part of what they look for is the ability to roll with it. And I was definitely not rolling this morning. I kept flubbing the words and generally felt like I was encased in jello.

I'm still really exhausted from this weekend. I've had little opportunity to relax and catch up and I think I've minimimalized here and to myself how stressful it was. Dad almost can't do anything other than the very basic familiar everyday patterns, and he can't form sentences. And it's clear at times he doesn't know who we are (sometimes he asks).

On a good note, I did this reading last night that went well. It's for a new play that's under development and prepping for a January run. We rehearsed once, Monday night. Not only hadn't I read the play, I hadn't even read the scene. And I told the director I wouldn't be able to until the day of the performance. So I was feeling pretty neglectful and behind. But yesterday I read and studied and practiced and by last night I was able to bring a lot to the short scene I did. And the director and playwright were happy and the audience was appreciative, so that was cool. It felt good to be up there, doing well and bringing value to the process and the people behind it.

I might just take a 4-hour nap now.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A country idyll

I've long been under the impression that Illinois is easily the ugliest state in the union, with the possible exception of Oklahoma (1 of only 6 I haven't been to). Even uglier than Indiana. But I realize I haven't really explored it much beyond Chicago, and when I have gone outside the city, I've mostly stuck to the main roads -- highways and state routes.

Yesterday I went straight from the airport to this cool outdoor antiques show out in DeKalb County, which I've been to dozens of times over the years. But this time we just meandered our way back along the backroads, going from town to town and ending up in Geneva. It's a fun way to travel, like with the Starved Rock trip, seeing places like LaSalle, and driving the little farm roads through Kendall County. There are actually some rolling hills out there, and trees and other cool things.

It was the perfect distraction after a stressful weekend. This world is simultaneously cruel and beautiful. You heard it here first.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


So now it has a name.

It was a little shocking and scary to hear it, of course, but in some ways a relief. For several years now I've been describing Dad's illness to people and they say, "Alzheimer's?" And I answer no, and explain that it's like Alzheimer's, but different. Different cause, kind of a different effect. But now they're saying that's what it is, so at least I'll be able to just say Alzheimer's and be done with it.

There are some promising drugs on the way, in spite of our having a president who cares more about cells than living human beings. But I don't think that will matter by the time they're approved. Because it's not Alzheimer's instead of his original diagnosis, it's Alzheimer's on top of that. And even if they cured or staunched it, the damage from the other is long since done.

So there you go. The long goodbye. His mood is better, at least, since Christmas. More confused, yes, but less stressed out and anxious, which is good.

Today we visited Great Falls, just down the road from their house. On the bright side, from his standpoint, it was his first time seeing it, even though it was literally at least his thousandth visit. Then we washed the car. He helped me, like I used to help him, stepping in for the fun parts, rinsing it down with the hose.

I'm glad I'm here. And I can't wait to get home.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Into the abyss

I'm going back to DC for a quick visit to see family. It should be ... I don't know what it will be. From what I've heard, it's not clear that my Dad will recognize me.

A lot of people have it tougher than I do. The impact and the burden on me, 800 miles away, has been a good deal less than others have to deal with, so the very least bare minimum I can do is go for a brief visit.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Narrowing the field

It was right around this time four years ago that I first sought commercial representation. I did a mailing to, I think, 19 different agencies and got signed by 7, which was a lot, and probably too many. But nobody told me. If somebody wanted me, who was I to say no?

Over the years, through sort of a process of natural selection, they've winnowed themselves down:
  • One agency, after booking me for my very first gig, an industrial for Kraft, went out of business.
  • Another one specialized in trade shows. I applied to them because the person who was helping me with the process did a lot of work with them. Of course, she's a cute girl. Anyway, I would dutifully check in with them every month as asked, and they'd request another 30 headshots/resumes (at about a buck a pop). After 4 or 5 months of this I realized it was probably going nowhere. And most of the trade show work is pretty weird anyway, so I stopped calling.
  • A third agent is in Milwaukee. They sent me on tons of auditions when I first signed up and even booked me on a number of gigs, mostly industrials and a couple of small, local commercial spots. There was a time I was going to Milwaukee 7 or 8 times a month. Which is a lot, even if you own a car, which I did not. Which was a tremendous pain. As work-work heated up over the past year, I stopped calling them. I simply couldn't justify taking 4-6 hours out of my day for an audition for a gig that IF I got it, ultimately would pay less than I could make staying in the office for 3 hours. It would be different if it was the kind of gig where you could develop a relationship that might lead to something bigger, but it usually isn't.
  • A fourth one has just a terrible reputation in Chicago. Though they seem to get a few people some good work, for the most part they sign just about anybody who walks through their door. In two years I think they sent me on maybe 4 auditions -- compared to another agent who would send me on twice that many in a month. They have a lot of turnover, and every 6 months someone new comes on board with a lot of enthusiasm (and a strange tendency to call me Bob, when my headshot very clearly says Rob) and asks me to these giant cattlecalls, where 300+ actors are vying for a handful of roles. Yesterday I did something crazy. They called me for one of these and ... I didn't return the call. I just didn't. Even if I got a gig through them I have very little confidence, based on their reputation, that I'd actually get paid, or paid in a reasonable amount of time. So I'm officially breaking up with them.
  • So that leaves three agents. One that's been consistently sending me out for four years and is really great.
  • Another that sent me out a bunch when I first started but dropped off significantly when they had a major turnover of staff. (My fault for not going in there aggressively and making myself better known to the new people.) They still go up and down in terms of their attention to me.
  • And a third that was really slow coming out of the box and barely sent me on anything for a couple of years but has been much more active in the past year or so. They'd actually like me to go exclusive with them. Which concerns me. Putting all the proverbial eggs in one basket, as it were. I have until the end of the year to figure this out.
So I don't know. This fall should be interesting. I'm thinking about getting new headshots (the black-and-whites are embarrassing -- I think less than 20% of commercial actors are still using B&W), maybe a comp card (a composite of several looks, used for modeling gigs) and maybe even a reel of some of my on-camera work.

Then again, the casting agents know me. They're the ones who dole out the work, not the talent agents. I've been to the major casting agencies hundreds of times over the years. I'm not sure how much difference these cosmetic changes might make, other than indicating a certain level of seriousness and commitment to the work.

So that's a lot to think about. But right now I can't because I have to interview a doctor about what makes his hospital such a great place to work. Then I have to draft a brochure introducing a law firm's new China office. And then ... lots of other stuff ...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ha! Joke's on me!

So I had this theatre audition today. I didn't submit for it, but was invited last week by this casting director who works around town and has seen me audition here and there. So, leery about being labeled "the dude who always sez no," I accepted. And I went through all the usual prep -- I went to the library and checked out the play, read the play, studied the play by reading reviews on the Interwebs of past productions, studied my part, practiced, practiced and practiced some more. All of that this weekend because last week was too busy.

I didn't have great expectations, but wanted to do well. As with a lot of these things, the major roles have already gone to ensemble members so they're looking to fill out the smaller parts with people like me. I got there and it was the usual deal -- ran into a couple of people I know, including the guy reading with me. And I listened as the casting director explained
to each of us that the director was going to work you, stop you, start you, have you run it again and again in different ways. And so I waited patiently as others took 5, 10, almost 15 minutes to do their slots.

Then up I came. I performed my little 3-page scene, giving it my best,
drawing out the humor where possible, trying to give the long monologues meaning while also trying to keep up the tempo, playing my wants and all of that business.

And then? A few words from the director, something about doing a good job making the stories in the long passages understandable. And then ... thank you and goodb

Whoops! Who knows, maybe I'll be called back. But I doubt it.

My only regret is I could have had a much more laid-back weekend without having to cram for this. I mean, there were THREE festivals going on, for chrissakes. I could have made a
couple of them, I suppose. But there was the weather. And it wouldn't have been quite the same without my festival compadre ...

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Even if I was rehearsing a show right now, I'm not sure exactly how I'd do it. I'm wrapping up/culminating a half-dozen projects for one client, launching one for another and about to start two more for a different client. I've been working several nights a week, which I've chosen to do instead of working weekends. If I was in a show, I'd be coming home at 10 pm and working 'til 1 in the morning. Or I'd have no life whatsoever.

The funny thing is, common to all three of these clients, is recruiting. I'm becoming a recruiting expert, doing campaigns and materials for a law firm, a hospital and, possibly, a second law firm, to help them attract the best people to work for them.

I don't know if it's a coincidence or a really hot issue right now, but it's definitely another capability I can offer clients.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Extra, extra!

Fall is apparently the time when my tiny background extra bit roles come home to roost. Right now I can be seen in a Stanley Steemer [sic] commercial. It's the "charades" one, where we partygoers are trying to guess the word from the clues given by the husband of the house. He points to the carpet and we all yell, "Filthy! Digusting! Gross!" All to his wife's chagrin. So I'm on the couch and you can see the right side of my head.

Then this weekend I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With, the Jeff Garlin movie with Sarah Silverman and 10,000 Chicago actors, came out. By "came out" I mean it was released in theaters in New York and elsewhere via Comcast on Demand. I appear for under three seconds in the last 15 minutes of the movie. Here is a bad camera phone pic of the TV screen, showing me, Dave Pasquesi and Jeff Garlin.

We shot this at least two years ago. Maybe three? A long time ago. Given all the delays, I wasn't expecting much, but was very pleasantly surprised. It's a pretty nice movie. Especially if you're a Chicagoan, but even if not. And Sarah Silverman was amazingly awesome as always.

Too funny. I found an old writeup of the evening on my website. It was three years ago. Wow, was I dumb, wide-eyed and naive.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The sun also rises

I'm on hold for a job, supposedly, for ALL of next week, which is crazy. Like I'm supposed to keep the whole week open.

I don't even know if it that's true, exactly. I got a message from an agent to check my availability next week for a commercial shoot out of town. When I called back I got someone else who didn't necessarily have all the details. "So is the shoot for the entire week, or just a day plus travel?" I asked. She didn't really know. "So am I on hold for the whole week?" I asked. Yes, she said. Which is crazy.

Plus they were auditioning more people even as we spoke, so that, combined with the fact that the last few jobs I was on hold for fell through, means I probably won't get it.

I don't know. I take umbrage -- umbrage, I tell you -- at the notion that I am to put my life on hold for a whole damned week. So I'm not. I've been scheduling meetings and appointments next week. Work projects keep coming over the horizon, one after another, like the moon chasing the sun. Just as one settles down, another comes up, then another, and another still after that.

It's like 1999 out there.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

By the numbers

The weekend:
  • Bike rides ridden: 7
  • Outdoor meals eaten: 5
  • States visited: 3
  • Beaches strolled: 3
  • CatFight shows seen: 2
  • Street Fests attended: 1
  • Work done: 0
There are two auditions that I was invited to tonight. I'm not going to them. I'm not going to work simply for the sake of working. I'm only going to go for projects that are right for me and that really excite me.