Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Midyear report

I've felt like it was a busy year and the numbers don't lie -- 58 total auditions over the first six months, which puts me a little ahead of last year's pace (ultimately netting out at 103 for the year).

Some of that total were some odd, random voiceovers. And, as I've said, it seems more auditions are coming from odd places. Low paying jobs from outside the big casting agencies. But overall, nothing to complain about. Here's how it breaks out:
  • 26 commercial
  • 5 commercial callbacks
  • 11 industrial
  • 9 voiceover
  • 6 print
  • 1 trade show
As for bookings, I've had 5 total (3 commercial, 1 print and 1 industrial). That's behind pace for last year, which totaled 15 overall. But in spite of that I think I've actually made more money, which is cool.

On the other hand, in spite of a couple of decent auditions today, tomorrow I try out for the role of George Washington. No fucking lie. From what I understand, my agent just had an extra slot and they must have run out of, um, white guys over 30?

For this I'm missing spin class. Ridick.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Kentucky wrapup

The shoot went really, really well. Coach Calipari was courteous, though focused pretty intently on getting this done so he could move on with his schedule. Kind of what I expected from a guy who's taking over a legendary NCAA franchise whose rabid fan base expects nothing less than a final four appearance, if not the championship, every year.

I got to clown around some, ad-libbing and improvising. His main job was to look at my like I was some kind of major league goofball asshole. Which I was. Or, at least, my character was. Let's just say some roles really fit like a glove.

One thing that's odd on these shoots is that the director is watching you, of course -- sometimes through the camera lens. But all the client and agency people are off somewhere else watching you through a monitor. They may be across the room or behind a curtain or sometimes in a whole other room. And you'll be shucking and jiving and doing your thing to total quiet, until the director says cut and everyone starts laughing. It's a little like theater, only on time delay.

So it was awesome and all, and a really great month for work with 15 or so auditions and three bookings. It's amazing, though, how quickly I get past things. I start out very excited and happy and grateful, then after a day or two it's all sunk in and my outlook has recalibrated so that this now feels like the norm and I'm back to waiting on and expecting my next big thing.

It's not a bummer or anything. I guess it's just that you're only as relevant as your current (or next) gig.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Just this

I can understand that Michael Jackson was an icon. I can understand people's attachment to him and his music, especially if they were children when he hit it big. I can appreciate his contribution to pop music and culture. I get all that. Fine.

What I don't understand is the "shock" a lot of people are expressing over his death. I would say, outside of Keith Richards or Patrick Swayze, this is one of the least shocking deaths I can imagine. Michael Jackson was a sick mess of a man -- physically, mentally, emotionally. Did people really expect him to live to a hundred?

Princess Diana's death was shocking. JFK Jr. (and Sr.) Hell, John Ritter. Michael Jackson? Not really.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On the ground in bluegrass country

Lexington, KY

I don't think my iPhone camera takes pictures as well as my Razr did. Though there are a couple of functions that make it more complex (albeit more versatile), so maybe it's just a matter of getting used to it.

Anyway, here in Lexington after a minor weather hiccup. Just as we were ready to board the plane this afternoon, this violent thunderstorm hit out of the blue. It was so odd. Having my iPhone to look up the weather radar, I saw it wasn't your typical 500-mile front sweeping in from the West. It was more like a kernel of popcorn exploding suddenly right over the city. Within an hour it had come and gone, but boy did it make its presence known.

So an hour's delay, then wheels down in Louisville, where I ran into mini-me at the gate. His day went well and they got done superfast and super early. Greeted by a PA (complete with "Rob Biesenbach" sign) and driven the hour or so to Lexington. Talked with the director. Everyone agrees mini-me was a hit. I've got a tough act to follow.

Scooted downtown and found a spot to eat, courtesy of yelp and Google Maps, then back to the hotel to rest for tomorrow. Hopefully the iPhone knows how to wake me up properly. And on East Coast time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

All access pass

Finally, finally, finally, Internet everywhere.

I can't begin to describe the stress I feel when I'm away from it for prolonged periods. Email, news, message boards, Facebook, blogs. Now it all comes with me, courtesy of the new iPhone 3G S.

In addition to keeping up with things -- and avoiding the mad rush when I get back home of tearing through all of the above to catch up -- it's the little things that will really bring the value. Who was that guy in that movie? It's right at my fingertips. Where can I get some food in this neighborhood? Hello, GPS. Should I take the bus or the train? Mystery solved. What's that song they're playing? Hold out the phone and Shazam identifies it and links to iTunes for purchase. Is it right to judge this book by its cover? Look up the reviews before buying.

So I'm going a little App happy. The first one I downloaded, of course, was iBeer:

Perfect for when I've got iThirst.

And all just in time for my out-of-town trip. Good times.

Monday, June 22, 2009

My mini-me

I've talked before about my pretend nemesis. This little douchebag is my mini-me.

Matt joined our Second City improv class kind of late in the cycle -- second or third term, maybe. He immediately made a huge impact on our highly dysfunctional, marginally ept(?) group. It's an indication of my delusion that, at the time, I felt like, "Whoa, this guy's as good as I am, maybe BETTER!" As if that can happen.

In retrospect, he was WAY better. Than all of us. So yeah, he's one funny little fucker. I hardly ever get to see him, but lately we've run into each other a lot. Last week we both got booked on that multi-day commercial shoot. And this week we're both going to Louisville, having snagged the two roles available for this shoot, too.

Hilariously, both weeks Matt got the 6 am call and I got the 8 am. Heh. He's playing fast-talking hotshot banker opposite the football coach, and I'm playing slick, smarmy banker opposite the basketball coach.

Mini-me. Only in terms of physical stature. As far as talent, I'm his mini-me. Or maybe his Scott Evil.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Booked a-freakin'-gain

Man, I am on a roll! Update the leader board: 10 auditions, resulting in 3 callbacks and 2 bookings. And this second booking wasn't even a result of one of the three callbacks. I was booked directly, so that means 4 out of 10 led to either a callback or booking. Nice.

It's funny how it happens in clumps like this. I had 2 bookings in 2 weeks in March, and now I've booked 3 out of 4 Thursdays in June. So I guess that means nothing more 'til September.

I was really excited when my agent called, then I thought, wait, it's not like this job pays a fortune. The pay is fine, good even, but nothing to blow your socks off. I think I was happy because, like I said yesterday, I worked hard on it and know I did a good job. And I feel like I was well-suited for it. As opposed to, say, the Uncle Sam one, which paid more, but there were a half-dozen guys in the audition room with sliver hair and beards that would have been much better Uncle Sams.

Also it'll be fun because I'll be shooting with a celebrity. Even though I hadn't heard of him, he's a legend in NCAA basketball, so that will be a nice story to tell. And it makes up for the celebrity gigs I didn't get with Nick Lachey, Patrick Swayze and, of course, Ghostface Killah.

Now I've got to study up some more on him -- beyond wikipedia. I hope he's cool to work with. My only other real celebrity gig was a commercial a few years back with Senator Russ Feingold, and he was fun.

Nice start to the weekend!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The longish day

Our shoot went a lot better, apparently, than Tuesday's, what with the monsoons and the outdoor location and all. And they ended up getting a TON of really good, really funny, really heartwarming footage of actual people, so I very much doubt I'll end up in the final spot.

If I do, it will be pretty embarrassing because I didn't get a lot of direction and I was going off the audition scenario in which I was unable to lift this giant weight, which represented how much weight this woman lost. (117 lbs! In a really, really big and awkward steamer trunk!) They suggested I be a little less New York aesthete and a little more midwestern dude. Anyway, once I got it, I would have liked another shot at that damned trunk.

At least I got to actually go on and do some acting. Only two of the five of us did, and my two friends from the other shoot days didn't. But after I did my thing it was 6 or 7 hours of sitting around, interrupted by probably the best crafts services meal I've ever had. (Just about one of the best lunches I've ever had, actually.) Anyway, it was ironic that the dozens of extras worked WAY harder than most of the principals.

While I was there I got a call to put me on hold for one of the auditions earlier this week. It was a really fun one that I worked hard on, so that's satisfying. It would involve travel, but to nowhere particularly glamorous. Hope I get it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


This is the first weekday in 10 that I haven't had an audition. It feels weird, but it's a relief.

So out of 10 auditions I got 3 callbacks and one of those turned into a booking. One in 10 is pretty good. Though technically, I suppose the ones from yesterday and the day before may turn into something yet.

As for the booking tomorrow, tons of Chicago actors got cast. It's a cast of scores, if not hundreds. They're shooting over four days and I've been receiving reports of 11 hour days standing huddled under canopies from the rain. Since we're getting overtime I can deal with 11 hours. And I hear only the extras were stuck actually IN the rain.

The actors themselves haven't had a lot to do. I'd mentioned they were looking for really natural people and it turns out that's literally true. A bunch of us actors are there only for backup, in case they don't capture any good regular joes.

So it may be a long, boring day. And, of course, I don't make as much if I don't actually appear in the thing, but it's still decent money. If only I had mobile Internet ....


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

If it talks like a duck ...

I got a few photos back from this crazy shoot I did last year in Columbus. They're really fun. I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me to track them down until now, but the need to put together a comp card has me digging for more looks.

It's funny that just the other day I was kicking myself for not being as creative and loose as I could have been in that other shoot. But getting these reminded me of that day, and how they had all these weird outfits and crazy props, and those really helped bring out the fun. But again, I need to find that from within myself, because it's usually not provided for me so vividly.

I emailed a producer on another shoot I did the day before this one up in Milwaukee. That's gonna be a tough one. He has no contacts left at the client -- the whole marketing department has been terminated. He suggested maybe my agent would have some info, which is funny because, yes, you'd think that would be how it works. My agents keep asking me about tear sheets and clips and yet 95% of the ones I possess have been the result of my own footwork. I've got the photographer's name and his representative, so maybe I'll give that a try.

For now I'm pretty happy to have these. And to have some success in tracking them down. They're probably too crazy for the comp card though. The producer, who was really cool, gave my super-hi resolution images and said they're so arty that I should blow them up and put them on my walls. Little does she know ...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

This dog

In spite of the fact that I'm a lifelong cat person, this dog turned my mind. A little.

When I couldn't even stand my own Dad's dogs -- with their jumping and their drooling and their hyperactivity and their crotch-sniffing -- this calm, wise, mellow old girl showed me something I hadn't seen.

In a world of judgment, this dog taught me something about the possibility for, and redeeming power of, unconditional love.

When I saw the love that was lavished on her, this dog gave me hope.

When I saw the love that was lavished on her, this dog made me a little jealous.

I dolloped a bit of my own affection on her -- maybe because I loved her, too, or maybe as a cynical ploy to win the thing I couldn't have.

Either way, this dog accepted love unquestioningly.

For this dog, I was good enough.

This dog reminded me that I deserve more.

I will miss this dog.

Friday, June 12, 2009

And booked

I just got booked for one of the three jobs. I kinda knew they liked me. I could tell I did a good job in the audition. They're creating a commercial that is supposed to be an almost documentary-like man-on-the-street interview type thing. And they're casting a bunch of people, as interviewers, participants and plain ol' bystanders. 

Even though they had suggested lines, we were supposed to behave very naturally, like it was all off-the-cuff. And for a moment there, I swear I was "acting." Like good acting. The kind I'm supposed to do on stage. I just had a very genuine reaction, something I really felt. As well as some very simple, natural ad-libs. And I could sorta see or maybe sense out of the corner of my eye that it was resonating with the clients. Just like that feeling you sometimes get in theater when you can feel the audience is right there with you, totally along for the ride.

Of course I also knew that, of the three jobs, this would be the one I'd get. How? By the price tag. It pays, depending on whether I'm recognizable in the final spot, between 1/10th and 1/6th of the best paying one, and a little less than the other one.

On the other hand, I could still reasonably get booked for one of the others. Though, wouldn't you know it, they're shooting right within the same several-day time frame next week. But I don't know. There was a guy there today who looked exactly like Uncle Sam.

Crazy, crazy busy. Two more auditions Monday and Tuesday. That would be 13 in 16 days.

Beer now please.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Whither the economy?

Little glimmers keep appearing. The stock market today finally hit positive territory again for the year (then retrenched). The economy's still hemorrhaging jobs, but at about half the rate it was losing them at its worst point (yet) a few months ago.

And this may not be as reliable an indicator, but Jewel and CVS stopped spitting out and mailing those 10 and 20% coupons I was so into earlier this year. At first I thought maybe they were doing poorly and couldn't afford to give away so much. But now I'm thinking maybe it means they're in good shape and don't need the incentives to lure people into the stores. Or maybe they just stopped giving them to me because I went and used them all the time.

There was a guy on The Daily Show the other night. They ran about a dozen clips of him in the months and years leading up to last fall warning of a collapse in the credit markets. He called it when nobody else saw it. And now he's warning that all the stimulus money and bailout money the government's pumping out is going to send the economy back off the cliff and spur a round of hyperinflation the likes of which we've never seen that will wipe out retirement savings and make our wages meaningless.

So that concerns me as I sit here figuring and re-figuring my projected income for the year (so far, amazingly, so good) and continue to look for ways large and small to save (example: getting my hair cut every five weeks instead of every four weeks = $117.50 a year). Are things truly on the rebound or is this all just a blip?

Then I read this in the NYT. In spite of the recession, smartphone sales are actually up 25% this year. And it makes me feel a little better about finally breaking and getting myself the new souped-up iPhone 3GS coming out next week.
Yup, enough is enough. I can no longer go without Internet everywhere. And if, with this phone, I finally, finally get decent reception in my home, I will help finance it by going off the grid, and giving up the land line. 


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Callbacks, callback, callbacks

If phones still had hooks, mine would have been ringing off of it today. I got three commercial callbacks within just a few hours.

That's for two of the four auditions I've gone on this week and another from last week (the Uncle Sam one, surprisingly). And the week's not even over. Crazy.

Also at an audition today I was sitting in the waiting room with eight models in swimsuits.

More days like this, please.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Auditions, auditions, auditions

Things have been crazy. Four auditions last week and four already scheduled for this week.

Again, in terms of numbers, this year seems to be holding steady. Though the types of jobs, I think, have changed. It's a weird little melange of stuff. Low-budget productions. More and more auditions held apart from the big casting agencies. Random voiceovers. Some higher-paying stuff, some union stuff, but mostly odds and ends.

I realized today that everyone is just working their ass off, hustling and scrapping for every last piece of business. And I'm not alone in it. The corporate marketing staffs are working to stay busy and prove their value and justify their existence (while also trying to do more with less). The ad agency people are trying to convince them to do stuff and working to avoid (further) layoffs. The production companies are out pushing, pushing, pushing. And the casting and talent agencies are doing everything they can to stay afloat.

So I think it means a lot of different kind of work. Work that we might not normally see in the good times. And craziness. At two different big casting agencies this week they were doubling up, running auditions in two separate rooms so they could cycle through hundreds of actors. I've never seen that before, let alone twice, let alone twice in two days.

I complain a lot about how actors are always at the bottom of the shit stream -- lowest on the totem pole with the least power. On the other hand, one benefit of being in this position is all the people upstream who are working to generate business.

Anyway, I remain cautiously optimistic.

Monday, June 08, 2009


Several times in the past couple of weeks I've had dreams -- nightmares, I guess -- of barely evaded muggings. Me looking up and suddenly noticing menacing types approaching, taking off running with them chasing.

Although I'm conscious of the fact that dreams mean next to nothing, I imagine it might have something to do with my recent near-miss. Or maybe it's symbolic of something else -- fear, powerlessness, the unknown. Who knows? (It's very telling that in the dreams I'm not standing my ground and kicking their asses.)

What's odd is that I live in relative safety. (Other than having my home broken into, of course.) But my neighborhood, and most of the neighborhoods I go to, are fairly harmless. They have their share of crime, sure, but everywhere does.

By relative I mean versus where I lived in DC when I got out of college. Two different apartments in the same 'hood which was, at the time, frontierland. Increasingly gentrified, yes. But full of peril at the same time. You'd have a nice block of renovated townhouses meticulously maintained by gay men (and almost everyone there was gay, hoodlums or me) right next to a major open-air drug market.

The previous tenant in my first place was mugged twice outside his door. Out my second-floor window I'd often see prostitutes in the church parking lot across the street fighting over money with their johns. One night I leapt out of bed to the sound of what seemed like a gunshot. Looking out, I saw nothing. Later on that day, they found a young kid's body in some weeds on the other side of the lot. He was shot in the head in an apparent mugging.

In my second place, there was a houseful of drug dealers on my block. Around the corner, four people were found dead in their house, shot, execution style in the back of the heads. Sure, lots of "regular" people lived there, too. But I was constantly, constantly looking over my shoulder, always vigilant, crossing the street even when I saw suspicious people congregating. 

I've probably become complacent here. Maybe these dreams are telling me to step it up a little.

Then again, they quite possibly mean nothing at all. Either way, I'd like them to stop.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Saying no

I turned down two theater auditions in the past week. One of them was for Steppenwolf, which sounds crazy.

But I made this commitment to "take care of business," as it were -- to focus on paying work, commercial and otherwise, and I can't just toss that aside because one of the city's premier theaters is calling. I've had some nice successes on both fronts this year. Whether that's because I've had the time to market myself or if, going into commercial auditions, I've been more focused, less distracted by competing obligations, or better rested from not having rehearsed the night before 'til 10. Whatever it is, it seems to be working. 

Plus, who knows where I'll be in the fall? I might behind a desk somewhere. 

Still, it's nice to be asked. I have no idea why they called. The last (and only) time I auditioned for them was around four years ago. It was for an understudy part, as was this latest opportunity. I assumed since I hadn't been back (in spite of multiple submissions), they had decided I didn't quite have what it takes. So maybe they're casting a wide net. Or perhaps they just want to see how and whether I've grown as an actor over the years.

Either way, we'll never know! Onward.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

From Uncle Rob to Uncle Sam

This morning's industrial shoot was grueling. Two two-year olds, with me as Dad. Fortunately I only had to wrangle one at a time. They cast a pair in case one completely flaked out. As it happens, both (eventually) got their groove on so it was basically double the work -- trying to capture all the shots with each of them.

But it was tough starting out. In the holding area they were completely outgoing and cheerful and one even called my Uncle Rob right off the bat, which is something I haven't heard from a toddler in a long, long time. But once in the studio it was tough going. Getting them in front of the camera -- hell, just getting them out of their parents' arms.

I know it's hugely stressful for the parents. I've seen it in auditions where a (probably) otherwise well-behaved kid just doesn't fucking feel like performing that day and has a fit, and there's not much you can do about it.

But I felt just as much responsibility, if not more, for getting the kids to loosen up. It's funny they barely mentioned I'd be working with kids. Not in the audition at all -- just more of a quick afterthought-like note after I was booked. What if I was completely shitty with kids? All they asked was, "Are you okay holding a two-year-old?"

Well, that's a far, far cry from getting a two-year-old almost instantly comfortable with a complete stranger picking him up and carrying him around for several hours. And getting the two-year-old to cooperate on multiple takes involving a variety of moves and expressions and props. Suffice to say, lots of chocolate was involved. And lots of me down on my hands and knees, doing tricks, playing with the toys, etc., etc. And lots of quick breaks, because each could only do a few takes before squirming out of my arms.

But overall successful. No major meltdowns. And both sets of parents got their fee for the gig. Let me tell you, kids are freakin' heavy, especially when you're toting them around in one arm for several hours.

I gotta say, I dislike kids in the abstract. Kids in general, kids I don't know. Kids who fuss and make noise in public and aren't seen but not heard. But when I actually spend time with them -- kids of friends and on jobs, etc. -- they almost always turn out pretty cool.

Later on was an audition where I played a different uncle. Uncle Sam. I thought I was going in as the husband, but when I read it closer on the way in I realized my mistake. Not that I had a red, white and blue suit waiting in my closet anyway.

But that was fun. I had some fun ad libs -- "Mmm, chicken quesadilla -- I want YOU" -- but they had me play it straight.

I am exhausted -- partly from the baby wrangling, but also because I got up at 5:45. And tomorrow morning, back on in for another audition, this time in the role of "Electrical Engineer."

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Booked (finally)

It's about time! It's been several months now, but I got booked for a commercial job. Industrial actually. One I was talking about the other day.

They're shooting at the ad agency, so it'll be a good environment to be in. Not just because they're fun, interesting people, but you never know what kind of contacts can be made for my work-work. (Probably limited, as they're one of the top agencies and there's a long line of more qualified people ahead of me.)

It's a green-screen shoot, and the problem with green screens and blue screens is they eliminate 90% of my wardrobe -- no greens, no blues, no patterns or stripes, and no blacks or dark colors. That's pretty much everything I own. Except for some khaki and white. So hopefully there'll be something for me to wear.

Also, they asked if I was comfortable holding a two-year-old and I said, "Absolutely." They're talking about scotch, right?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Pick of the pics

I got the photos back from Sunday's shoot and got a few things I can use, I think. One thing is, that outdoor light is HARSH, man. Not sure what the deal is, actually. My headshots were all done in natural light. Maybe they coated the lens in vaseline. But here are a few.

They sent us a link to everyone's shots and I've got to say, them models really know what they're doing. They gave me a chance to give a big range of expressions in the closeups and I think they varied from smile with teeth to smile with no teeth, from head cocked to the left to head cocked to the right.

But the models were doing all kinds of crazy stuff. Which I should have done. And I can do, but generally I need more prompting. It's not right there close to the surface ready to pop out. I think it was the same way with my headshots. I pretty much only did expressions and poses that I thought I could turn into headshots. But that's me being too results-oriented as always. Acting goofy loosens things up and relaxes you, which helps give the more "standard" shots a little more life and animation.

Really gotta learn to let go.

And now for something completely contrived:

This one's funny. Kinda stalkery:

Monday, June 01, 2009

Maybe I don't hate models

I did a fun photo shoot yesterday morning. It was sort of a barter arrangement -- he gets to beef up his portfolio and we get free shots to use in our own marketing. My agent recommended I do it with an eye toward putting together a comp card for me, which is what models use to demonstrate a variety of looks, as opposed to the single headshot most actors use.

Sunday morning at 9:30 wasn't ideal. Saturday afternoon/evening was a 9-hour marathon of eating and drinking, from Kuma's Corner in Avondale over to Mayfest in Lincoln Square, then on to Konaks in Andersonville for a friend's birthday celebration, all resulting in maybe four hours of sleep. Normally I'd take it easy the night before something like this. But I didn't want to call off my plans and, hey, I was doing it for free.

Miraculously, I wasn't bloated, baggy-eyed, sunburned or overly exhausted, so hopefully I'll get some shots I can use. They seemed cool from what I saw on the camera screen. Sort of artsy and dramatic, with all these cool architectural and building elements in the background.

Anyway, it was me and these four tall, pretty models from Ford, and they were talking about how all these bars and clubs give discounts and specials to models who show up with their comp cards. They want to make sure their places are fully stocked with pretty people. Who knew there was this whole other underground economy going on?

It's like the Seinfeld episode where George is "let into the club." Or the SNL sketch where Eddie Murphy makes himself up as a white man and finds he gets all this special treatment -- stores turn away his money, giving him stuff for free, etc.

So it may just be worthwhile getting this comp card ...