Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bad vibes

Sometimes it's like the elements all conspire against you to ensure a bad audition. Of course, I know you only get psyched out if you let yourself be by paying attention to things outside yourself that don't matter.

Still, it doesn't help when:
  • You're five years older than the top of the character's age range.
  • Wardrobe requirements are confusing. The character is a "runner" but in the storyboards he's not running, he's hanging out with his wife. And the wardrobe for all characters is "nice casual. So in the waiting room you're focusing on the half of auditioners who are wearing running clothes, not the half wearing regular clothes like you.
  • You're not being sent by your "main" agent, but by one that doesn't seem to know you as well, and thus sends you on these kind of random auditions.
  • Everyone coming out of the audition is joking, "That was tough!" and "Whoa, they were brutal!" etc. So yeah, it's just one line but that can be a hell of a lot harder than a page of lines. You've got to inject that single line with meaning and warmth and sincerity and give it several different reads and try to stand out from everyone else. This was like amateur hour. These are the people who say it doesn't matter what you do, it all just comes down to your look, which is a kind of a lazy way of looking at it.
  • You run into an "audition friend" who's totally counting her chickens before she even gets in the room, tallying the pay, planning the travel, talking about seeing you at the shoot. Shut up! That is such bad mojo.
But I don't blame all these things and people. I was the one who gave five virtually identical reads in a row, screwing up one of the few things I actually had control over.

I am all out of rhythm -- just 5 auditions this month. Ugh.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Speaking of big mouth

I have this giant-ass monologue near the top of the show. It's just me talking for two-and-a-half minutes. More like ranting than talking.

So naturally I was most concerned about getting it memorized because, to hold peoples' attention with a monologue that long, you need to do it really well. Which means practicing it and working it and squeezing every drop of meaning out of it. None of which can really be done until you've got it internalized.

But I actually managed over the course of last week to get it down pretty well, which is a great position to be in, since we're still just working on blocking scenes. So I got to demonstrate it Monday night, a couple of times, and it seemed to go pretty well. Or maybe it sucked. Who knows? It felt good.

What always seems to happen is I get out ahead early on the lines then somehow lose it down the stretch. I'm going to try to avoid that if I can. Either way, it's nice to have something to do in the shower again -- you know, besides just bathing.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Big mouth strikes again

Looking East from the Michigan Avenue Bridge
Friday, January 25

Last week's rehearsals were devoted to table reads and analysis of the script and the characters. I felt very self conscious because at times like these, I have LOTS of opinions. I think that comes from years and years of, well, living. And analyzing every last thing about myself and my situation.

And with this script especially, I have a lot of experience to contribute because there are so many parallels to my own life. The company it's based on was represented by a law firm client of mine. The scandal they went through was similar to that of another former client of mine. They were prosecuted by a state AG -- I used to work for a state AG. They operate in a high pressure, work hard/play hard environment like I experienced in the late '90s working in a PR firm. Office politics, infighting, strife, affairs, firings, law-breaking -- it's all there.

But I don't want to be one of those people, because I really dislike them. The ones who know everything about everything and have no problem over-sharing it. So I was sitting on my hands and trying hard not to dominate the conversation.

I hope I struck a balance. I don't know. I do know in past experience with classes and things, people have come to me and told me how much my perspective was helpful and appreciated. (I'm sure a big part of that is the people I'm working with are usually younger and just have less life experience.) And I got some of that this time around. This is where I excel, in the group setting. Now that we're moving on, it becomes much more about individual relationships and interactions, where I don't do so well.

But these these guys seem really cool, so I hope I can pull it off.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Okay, I'm officially sick of my face

Seriously. Too many damned pictures of ME. Never thought I'd hear myself say that.

Three rehearsals in to the new show and things are starting to come together for me, at least conceptually. The subject matter is pretty technical, but we had a little tutorial on that last night. More importantly, the style is becoming clearer.

Prior to rehearsals, we were given a recommended list of films that would sort of inform the style and tone of things and it was, to say the least, a pretty eclectic group: Glengarry Glen Ross, Wall Street, Hudsucker Proxy (okay, I see where you're going with this), Brazil (huh?) and Blade Runner (cue needle scratch on vinyl).

But now I see it. It's a story of corporate scandal with noir elements, time-jumps and departures into the surreal. In a word: complex. So we've got a looooot of work to do to pull this off.

But the director and crew have a game plan and seem to know what they're doing and the cast seems cool, and we've got a TON of time to get ready -- two months 'til opening.

It feels a little weird to be back in this process. Trudging to rehearsals, practicing lines in the shower, upended sleep schedule. Like going back to school. Three rehearsals down. Thirty-five to go!

I hope this is fun.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Finally, it's a new year

A few weeks late, but now I've got my headshots done and my website updated with new photos throughout and my Actors Access profile updated as well. That's a relief.

Just as I get a warning in overnight e-mail from an old, but lately inactive, agent saying they can't submit people with outdated, B&W headshots.

That's still something I've got to figure out. I still have several agents but have not been working them all that hard. One's in Milwaukee and I just don't have the time to go up there these days for auditions. Work is too busy to take 4 hours out of my day a couple of times a week. To say nothing of the expense and inconvenience of renting or borrowing a car.

Another one's basically a joke. They sign everybody who walks in their door, make you pay to be on their website and send you mainly to cattle calls. I get a few calls from them a year and lately I've been ignoring them. From what I hear, even if I book something with them, getting paid for it is no sure bet.

Another was the first agent I signed with and had a very good reputation. They sent me out pretty frequently, but then had several turnovers of staff and I didn't do a good job of getting to know the new people, so I don't hear from them that much. (They're the ones who sent the e-mail, btw.) Which was fine, because I was being sent out a lot anyway by my other agents.

So that leaves us two in Chicago who are really active. One wanted me to go exclusive, which I was hesitant to do, because the other one has sent me on, I don't know, three or four times the number of auditions. The booking ratio is similar.

Everyone says this is the way it goes. You initially sign up with a lot of people and it gets winnowed down from there. (And I didn't even include in this tally the two other agents I initially signed with -- one went out of business and the other just does trade shows, which I'm not really right for, or up for. My god, I had SEVEN agents! Nightmare.)

The winnowing has been fairly mutual, I think. It's too much trouble to work with so many people. And it's difficult for them, too. I think I need to get down to one, but that would involve formally breaking ties with the others -- or maybe all three, if I decide to go somewhere else entirely. So that's what I've got to think about.

It would be nice to have a really close relationship with one agent. Someone who really knows me and my strengths and with whom I feel comfortable discussing my career. It's a two-way street, though. I have to provide enough value to warrant the personal attention. At least one of my agents feels I do -- maybe others do/will. We'll see.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Finally

Done ...... and done.
This has become the Photos of Me blog, but seriously, it's a relief to be done with these and finally have them in my paws.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Chill

Seriously, everyone needs to chill about the cold. People have been freaking all week like there's a hurricane coming, canceling plans, stocking provisions, and otherwise wussing out.

There's this local message board I lurk on where everyone's discussing their plans to stay in and do nothing for 48 hours. Which is essentially what they would be doing anyway. I think people are actually excited about the opportunity to do nothing with no guilt.

Which is totally fine. But just admit it and don't go acting all terrified.

The first time I ever went skiing was up in Wisconsin. I know, it hardly counts. But the high that day was 10 degrees, which made it a significantly more manly enterprise. I'd traveled all the way up there for the weekend and damnit, I was gonna learn to ski. Which I did. Luckily, the runs were no more than 2-3 minutes long. Still, it taught me to ski FAST, in order to get down to the fire barrel and thaw the frozen tears from my cheeks.

Anyway, if I was a poster on that board instead of lurker, this is what my response would be to all the chicken littles there. My plans? First, acknowledge that I live in a climate where it's not uncommon for the temperatures to reach the single digits. Second, use the skills and knowledge I've acquired as a human being to react accordingly and dress appropriately for the weather. Third, man up and go about my business.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ready

I am ready to jump back into the process of putting on a show. The rehearsals, the work, the process.

And having a little more of a purposeful life. Somewhere else to go a few nights a week. Chicago winters are so awful. It's so easy to get stuck in that work-gym-home-eat-sleep cycle. I'm getting a little too doughy around the middle.

I think I'm viewing this next show as a stimulating activity or outlet. Time will tell whether it also holds the same kick -- the rush, the art and the craft of it all.

And balance will be a challenge. With work, as well as the life I've been trying to have.

But I'm ready for Monday. Well, almost ready. There's the matter of reading the script. And the rest of the 30 pages of background. And seeing a couple of the five recommended films that I haven't seen.

Okay, in that sense, I'm not ready. But I will be.

I hope.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Olio

Wow, it had been almost four weeks without a commercial audition -- probably the longest I've gone in three years. Then I got two today, and another tomorrow. So that's better.

Printing of the new headshots continues to be delayed, due mainly to things only I would notice and that it seems only I care about and that make me feel like a total pain in the ass. But they'll come ... soon enough, I suppose.

Every few weeks it seems I wake up around 4 or 5 in the morning and after 10 or 15 minutes it becomes clear that I am up for the day and nothing I do will get me back to sleep. That is the time that all the chickens come home to roost in my brain. Fears, regrets, insecurities, pain. It's all there, and for whatever reason, it's always worst at that hour. That whole "darkest before the dawn" thing. And it makes me think, is this an exaggeration, brought on by the night? Or is this the reality, and my relative daytime happiness is the delusion?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Movie moments

I was at the movies this weekend and an odd thing happened that took me completely by surprise.

Near the end, one of the characters announces she has "vascular dementia," a condition caused by a series of small, imperceptible strokes that damage the frontal lobe of the brain leading to impairment of speech, cognitive function and, ultimately, memory.

That was the exact thing my father had, before the Alzheimer's was identified. I started to actually cry a little -- just four small tears, two per eye, quickly checked, suppressed and wiped from the corners before hitting much actual cheek.

So it really hit me. I had never heard the condition described anywhere else before, outside my father's case. I had honestly thought it was just something the doctors ... not "made up" -- that's not the phrase I'm looking for. I guess I thought it was more words they put together to describe something specific and weird that my father suffered from. More of an explanation or guesswork than an actual diagnosis based on a known condition. So hearing it described in the exact same terms in a major mainstream movie
was ... bracing. Like an affirmation of sorts.

Like I've said before, since it doesn't have nearly the "brand awareness" of Alzheimer's, neither I nor anyone I tried to explain it to had ever heard of it, so the additional, recent diagnosis of Alzheimer's suddenly gave his condition ... perhaps a "legitimacy" it didn't have before? (Wow, look who's having cognitive malfunction now ...)

Of course, now that I google it for the first time I find 337,000 hits. Why had I never done that before? All this time I was relying on what family members were telling me. I think when you're the youngest, you have that role for life. I was relying on others to take the responsibility.

Apparently it's common (the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's), progressive and, for the most part, untreatable. In a word, real. And here we were when it first came up prescribing crossword puzzles.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Commitment

Headshots are so different from when I last had them done almost 5 years ago. (Other than the fact that they're in color.)

It used to be you would staple together 25 or 30 headshots and resumes and deliver them to your agent every couple of months. Multiply that by the number of agents you have and that explains why you'd typically get 250 or 500 printed at a time.


But now much of the initial casting searches are done online via Actors Access, so really you only need headshots to take with you to auditions. As a result (and because color's expensive), you order them in smaller quantities. Which means it's easier to change up yo
ur headshots over time, or have several different versions on hand.

So while I did think carefully about which ones to order, I didn't have to obsess too much about it.

These are the winners:

The one on the bottom was the third shot on the roll, so that's interesting.

Of course, after I ordered, a couple of late entrants reared their head:

These aren't bad, though I'm not crazy about the way the shirt drapes in the first one. And the expression's not the best in the other one.

Oh, well. The good thing is I can put a bunch up on Actor's Access to hedge my bets.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Our own private island

Mackinac was amazing. No cars. Everyone gets around by bike, snowmobile or horse-drawn carriage.

Out in the water, at the top of Michigan's "middle finger," right between the upper and lower peninsulas, the only way to get to it is by plane or ferry. (And a 7-hour car ride from Chicago.)

These are the taxis that bring you in from the docks. They're also used to transport mail, and vitals like beer.

Our place was just a block away, so we walked through town. Luggage followed by snowmobile-pulled sled. The welcoming committee included Steve ...

... and Adam. Who really knows how to wear a hat.

The place was nearly deserted. The only things open were two restaurants, a grocery and two gift shops (unloading the last of their merchandise at 80% discounts). There were just a few hundred people on the whole island.

Still, it was festive and decked out for the season.

Our group included 5 couples and families. We all pretty much had this small condo building to ourselves. Our unit had a water view.

There was sledding and other winter fun ...

Hiking among the Victorian mansions above town ...

And through the woods, to the historic forts, cemeteries ..

... and various natural wonders.

At 700 feet, the Grand Hotel's front porch is supposedly the longest veranda in the world. In the summer, non-guests pay 10 bucks just for the privilege of visiting the property. We got in for free, as it was closed for the winter.

Very "Overlook Hotel." All work and no play ...

The town is just too cute. Though I think in the summer the people would drive me crazy.

But I'll be back someday. Awesome start to the year.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

2007 Roundup

Numbers, numbers, numbers. Each year I've been spitting out the numbers -- auditions, gigs, etc., etc., etc.

This year I'm not so much into it. Not so much because of the numbers themselves, some of which are higher and some of which are lower, but more due to this period of reevaluation I've gone through. It just doesn't seem to matter quite as much.

And that's most reflected in the theatre stuff. For the past 3 years I've gone on an average of 45 theatre auditions per year. This year it was about half that -- 28 -- partly because I've been a little more choosy, but mostly because I stepped back and took the summer and fall off. And had one of the best times of my life, incidentally.

Likewise, theatre productions were down, following the trend of the past years -- 14 in 2004, 12 in 2005, 10 in 2006 and 7 in 2007 -- and they were mostly readings and one-offs instead of full productions.

On the commercial side, things were up. I did no pulling back here. But on the other hand, I can't really say I stepped it up in terms of my marketing and outreach to agents and casting directors. If anything, I feel I did less. Yet I had 86 commercial auditions (TV spots, industrials and print), which is way more than where it's been the past 3 years, hovering in the upper 40s. Some of the difference might be more callbacks. Maybe also the market is better. Or maybe I'm just better. Who knows.

As for commercial bookings, the number is almost exactly the same as the past 3 years -- 11. And the total money was down from last year, so the gigs were smaller -- almost all industrials and print with just 2 commercials, both of which were extra roles. So the opportunities increased, but the results still weren't quite what I was shooting for.

So those are the numbers. Big whoop. The thing I'm most proud of is the one that I'm usually most proud of: the project I've just done. In this case, the Callback reading which, as I've said, may just be the beginning of my next big thing.

This year's goals:

1) Quality theatre opportunities. Taking only jobs that I really, really want to do. So this year's number will almost surely be even lower than last year's.

2) Better commercial gigs. Maybe this is the year I'll join SAG. We'll see -- that's been the goal the past two years. I can join anytime, as I've got one SAG job under my belt. I guess the point is to get some SAG jobs, which are better paying and which would necessitate joining.

3) Get a literary agent.

4) Finish this essay/book project I've started. Or perhaps I should say "finish" -- as in get a good draft done.

5) Have another awesome summer.