Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Self-help for dummies

I'm fine with the concept of self-help, but I think self-help books are ridiculously boring and, for the most part, for chumps. People who need life lessons spoon-fed to them. Maybe they're the same ones who think Avatar had a good screenplay.

I learn something important from almost every book I read, whether it's non-fiction or a work of literature. It's all in there. It's everywhere. Wisdom is all around. It just doesn't always have a flashing neon sign to call it out.

And I think it has a lot more impact when you're actually engaged in the process of discovering it, instead of having it plopped into your lap.

Just had to get that off my chest.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Don't call it a comeback

An intern (apparently) at my agent's left a message saying I was invited to a comeback. I figured she just misspoke, but then she asked me to call her back. And on the phone, again, she called it a comeback.

Anyway, tomato, tomahto -- I'm just glad to be, um, brought in again. Even if it is for the lowest paying of the three jobs I auditioned for last week.

And thus brings to a close a fairly lackluster quarter. Auditions are off by a full third, though four decently-paying gigs offset that a bit.

Hopefully Q2 will bring a comeback. And some callbacks.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Accent on the negative

I hate doing accents. Or dialects. Whichever. Both.

This breakdown last week called for any number of versions of the Queen's English -- from London posh to Irish to South African (really? South African?). They even said Kiwi was okay, but NOT Australian. They have a very high estimation of the skills and subtleties I bring to the table if they think I can discern the differences between those two!

So I went and did it as best I could. The casting agent said my accent seemed to go in and out. Ya think?

I don't know what the problem is, exactly. I think it's self-consciousness. I'm good with language and phrasing and such, but I think I just feel goofy doing an accent. There are few things worse (or more embarrassing to hear OR do) than a poorly done accent.

I'm sure if I'd just relax and think less about it, I'd be fine. But I find myself working on it, word-for-word, and practicing over and over. And forget about ad-libbing or improv -- I really need to work with the specific words in order to get it down. (At the audition they even said I could do non-British accents if I wanted -- so I could have pulled out the Scotch-Croatian-Farsi accent I did for Gordman's -- but I felt turning on a dime like that would be risky.)

There are dialect coaches and methods and courses and such but, in the end, as with everything else, I think it's really more a matter of letting go.

Friday, March 26, 2010

How it is ... and isn't

This video is a hilarious send-up of the commercial audition process. I saw it on a guy's blog, and he seemed to imply that this was a pretty dead-on depiction. The thing is, I don't think he actually does any commercial work, so I'm not sure where he gets his perspective from.

A lot of people sitting outside the audition room will scoff at the process, saying it only really comes down to whether you've got the right look or not. I think it's partly an esprit-de-corps thing, partly a typical actor tendency to self-denigrate and devalue what we do, and maybe it also provides a little comfort -- a feeling that this is all so beyond your control anyway it's not worth beating yourself up over.

The truth is, very often they have no idea what they're looking for. Or they have an idea but it turns out it's completely wrong. It's a cliche, but very often true that they don't know what they want until they see it.

But they give you these character breakdowns in advance that vary in their actual helpfulness. I actually find that the more information they give in the breakdown, the less useful it becomes. And sometimes it's not their fault. These lengthy descriptions are likely lifted straight from the creative brief, which needs to be detailed.

Today, for instance, I had this breakdown that went on for 375 words. Adjectives included: intellectual, quirky, passionate, brilliant, authoritative, likable, authentic, charming, captivating, memorable, deadpan, witty, roguish, innocent, child-like, enthusiastic. It then went on to list eight different celebrities to possibly model the character on.

At that point you sorta take it in, but then you just put it all aside and think, "How would I do this?" Because the last thing you want to do is a half-baked impression of one of those guys. So that's what I did. I made it my own. And if it turns out I'm too Jewish, so be it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New(ish) me

It's been almost a week now, taking the new glasses for a spin. They're okay, I guess. I like the color -- goes with my hair. Still not sure they have the same, I don't know, dramatic "oomph" of the others.

On the other hand, no one so far has really noticed anything different either. Casting directors, agents, friends -- nothing. Obviously it's something I'm paying a lot more attention to, which should not be surprising.

It's also a bit of an adjustment because they are, sad to say, progressive lenses. I've been noticing the past couple of years that when the lights are dim it's reaaaaalllly hard to see up close. So that's a relief, if a blow to the ego.

But I'm not sure they got them right. There's something weird going on with the left eye, especially at mid-range. Something's off. I don't think my left eye is supposed to be stinging and tearing. Gotta fix that.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Money --> mouth

In gratitude for the health care vote, I just fired off (small) contributions to my congressman, to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and to my old boss, who's running for Senate in Ohio.

Then since I was on a mini-roll, I sent some money to a filmmaker I know who's a good guy, a respected artist AND has his shit together business-wise, so that I know whatever I give will be used productively.

I was just in a mood. I've been asking for a lot lately, reaching out to a lot of people -- for networking, for information, for leads, etc. I felt like it was time to do some giving.

Not that I'm super-flush right now. Things have been a little .... recessioney lately. But I think on that score, too, it's especially important, since everybody's in the same boat, to put something out there, whether or not it comes back.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

That's more like it

I had two -- count 'em -- two auditions today. That makes FOUR for the month. Which is exactly ONE more than last month's total.

And they were good ones, too. An industrial that would be a multi-day shoot, so decent money. And a union commercial that had a pretty funny script, and it's actually being directed by the guy who does the Mac/PC commercials, so another good opportunity to be in front of someone ... you know, important.

Best of all, I managed to shake off the accumulated rust and do a pretty good job with both of them. Or at least I wasn't kicking myself afterwards.

So maybe it's the start of something.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Still buzzing

The feeling hasn't worn off yet. It truly feels like a brand new world.

I was up late -- then up again early -- devouring the news and analysis, and one thing is clear. There's no going back. As GOP talking head David Frum put it:
No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?
Also, with all the goodies rolling out this year, including ending denial to children with pre-existing conditions, rebates to seniors to start filling the donut hole, extending coverage of millions of young adults under their parents' plans, it seems there's a good chance more people might start to wake up and realize this bill isn't the bogeyman it's portrayed to be. And perhaps the Dems' losses won't be so bad in November (especially if the economy continues to improve).

Getting back to ME, though, I was slightly in error yesterday. The rule preventing insurers from denying adults coverage based on pre-existing conditions doesn't go into effect until 2014. There apparently is going to be a temporary "high risk" insurance pool for people with pre-existing conditions. But you have to go six months without insurance to be eligible.

Hell, I don't even know if I actually have pre-existing conditions. At one time they called my allergies a pre-existing condition. They didn't deny me insurance, but they did deny coverage of allergy-related issues for the first year. I imagine the definitions are up to the insurance companies. And they might actually have incentives for not labeling something a pre-existing condition -- who knows.

I guess I'll find out. Also it seems I wouldn't be eligible for much in the way of subsidies. It looks like people like me could be paying up to 8 or 10% of our income for insurance, which seems pretty damned high to me. (Which is why we need a public option, but that's a subject for another generation or two's time.)

But again, it's not all about me. This is unquestionably a good thing, in many, many ways. I think it's gonna be a good, good year.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Witness to History

Finally. Health care. It’s all over but the shouting.

I would be lying if I claimed my elation over HRC’s passage is entirely altruistic. But, in fact, my happiness and relief is three-fold.

First, it’s political. Obama and the Dems needed this victory badly. It’s hard to describe how much the political situation and outlook affect my everyday demeanor and mental well-being. I take it very, very seriously and feel it very deeply. Maybe it’s from having lived it and personally witnessing it and being directly impacted by the very best and the very worst that this beautiful but sometimes fucked up system has to offer.

Second, it’s personal. I stand to directly benefit from reform. Right now I am lucky to have, for at least one year, a sweet Cadillac plan from SAG. But the chances of my maintaining my eligibility into next year are slim-to-fair. So if I should find myself back in the market for individual coverage, it SHOULD be harder for providers to deny me based on pre-existing conditions. Of course, I’m no dummy, so I don’t doubt the insurance companies will work hard to find loopholes and worm their way out of these new obligations. But that’s a fight that I think will be much easier to win, if it comes to that.

Third, if this legislation helps me, it will undoubtedly help millions of others in a similar situation, to say nothing of countless millions of others who are far worse off.

No, this is far from a perfect solution. But it’s a beginning. And it’s about as much, if not more, than could ever be expected in the current environment. Give it to Obama for his tenacity. And Pelosi. In the face of hundreds of setbacks, they just kept on plowing forward.

And now perhaps the media will find a new group-think narrative to tell. Instead of “Obama on the Ropes” it’ll be the “Comeback Kid.” (And as I predicted a while back, I’m betting they’ll call Obama’s first Q&A with the Republican caucus the turning point.)

I also have to say, as distressing as the distortions and misinformation have been over the past year, it’s sweet to see the tables turned with the emphasis over the past 24 hours on a few teabaggers’ racial and homophobic slurs. I don’t doubt that those people represent a small percentage of the actual movement (though I also don’t doubt that their views are shared, if not publicly expressed, by a much larger number of them), but it’s absolutely wonderful to watch them all get smeared for the behavior of a few.

Because that’s me – I am a knee-jerk, partisan, yellow-dog Democratic hack. And proud of it. And proud of my party. If this turns out as hoped, we may have witnessed a pivotal moment in our country’s history, and people 30 or 40 years from now will be incredulous that there was even a moment’s debate over the notion that healthcare is a right, not a privilege.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sweet ride

Every rental car should be red. It would make the experience more fun and counteract the frustration of figuring out where the mirror adjuster is and what side the gas tank is on.

The meeting yesterday went great. It's been a while since I've been on a full-fledged employee communications pitch. I mostly do it now, instead of selling it, and it's cool how it all came together from the recesses of my brain and my hard drive.

And this whole storytelling thing I've been on really colored and improved the presentation from the old days. We used to walk through our case studies and go through challenges and tactics and results and stuff. But yesterday I just left that stuff on the slides and told a few of my favorite stories.

Stories about employees feeling engaged for the first time, feeling like they have an important role and feeling good about what they do. That's important stuff. And telling those stories allows me to show some of the passion and energy that goes into the work, which is way compelling than facts and figures.

There are a lot of people in the marketplace offering the same skills and services, but in business (and theater and likely most other settings), people like to work with people they like. People who are easy to get along with, passionate, fun and energetic. People who share their values.

So it was a good day. It would be nice to get the business, but even more importantly it was a great opportunity to pitch with this agency, which I admire a lot. I've had my eye on them for a while now and I'd love to do some work with them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


My biggest problem in networking is not in meeting people, but in staying in touch with them.

At that networking workshop we talked about sending "pings" -- little follow-ups to keep in touch with people in various ways. I didn't know it by that name, but it was something that I've always had trouble doing. "Hey, I saw this article on compensation and benefits and thought back to our conversation ..." or "I ran into this guy looking for x services and thought of you ..." Etc.

I'm a terrible "out of sight, out of mind" type. For that reason, Facebook has been a godsend. Unfortunately I use it almost exclusively for social purposes. I guess I also use it to keep up with acting people, but that's different from business -- for me at least. They're a fun and casual bunch, so I don't feel like I have to censor myself. If had business contacts on FB, I'd be reluctant to post a lot of the partisan political stuff and some of the "what was in that drink last night" stuff.

So I used LinkedIn for business, but it's just not as, to a use a cliched term, robust. It's more of a reference tool and a database or rolodex. Which requires me to be more thoughtful and strategic about it. Which I've been doing, to some success.

I contacted this guy who has a boutique agency I really admire. I'd been looking for a reason for a while and found one -- I'd just had a conversation with a mutual contact. And it just so happens a big client of his up in Milwaukee is looking for some employee communications help. So tomorrow I head up there with him for a capabilities presentation.

It's either the world's hugest coincidence or this networking stuff really does work once in a while.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Buyer's remorse?

Okay, I ordered them. There they are. They'll look a little different with actual prescription lenses in them (for one thing, my eyes will shrink to about half or two-thirds their size).

Not sure they pass the test of being cool without being obnoxiously so (like the crazy ones Robin Williams wears). Might have erred a little too far toward the conservative side.

Amazingly (to myself), this will be only sixth pair of glasses I've owned as an adult. There are the current ones, of course, which got me through most of the '00s:

Before that, my German rocket scientist glasses. These were ridiculously expensive. Including the clip-on sunglasses, $1,110. But they were cool. German made, actually, and based on an antique design. I had very little peripheral vision, though. And I think they made me look older.

Before that, it was these big ol'-round ones. I actually think I went through three pairs of these, so maybe my count is off. Together those got me through a decade, at least.

But glasses weren't quite the fashion item they are these days. Nobody back then bought frames with clear lenses just because they liked the look of glasses or owned seven or eight pairs to match with different outfits.

Of course, speaking of fashion, none of them were as bad as these.

That was the basic look through college and high school.

Yup, I was a real late bloomer.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Book is Back

After a brief hiatus, the book project is back on. It's hard to believe we've been working on this for almost a year.

Together we've actually done a couple of books' worth of material. But because of the nature of the process, we've had to do some backtracking. It wasn't like he just came to me with a draft manuscript and said, "Here, edit this."

Instead, we've been going through it chapter by chapter. In some ways it's an iterative process, though my role is more feedback and editing. But as he's gone through it he's found new and different and (hopefully) better ways to structure the thing. So several chapters have been re-written (and re-edited) wholesale. A couple of times.

And now, after having gotten to almost 13 chapters, we're going through and re-doing, to varying extent, every chapter. Some are tweaks, some are heavy revisions and some total re-writes. It's not ideal, but it's just the way it is.

This last big change was the result of him having to present the book in a one-hour seminar, which turned out to be a great way to really focus on the essentials. And it led to this new outline and some new thinking about the concepts.

I think it was definitely worth the month or two of detour/stoppage. Now we're back on track with a really clear direction. This one, I hope, will stick. I actually think any of the several structures we've had was workable, but then I'm not the one writing it, and I totally know how that goes.

Anyway, he's actually got some nibbles, publishing-wise. We've talked about different scenarios -- just putting it up online and leaving it at that, self-publishing and actual publishing. Actual publishing would be very cool. Don't know what that would mean for my Contributing Editor title, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Which, if we stick to this latest timeline, should be 90 days or less ...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Good agent, bad agent

I got calls from two different agents about two different jobs and I made two different decisions totally counter to what this economy would call for.

In the first one I agreed to audition for a job that would be unpaid. The second one was an audition for a SAG commercial, which I turned down.

The difference? The first one entailed an actual conversation and the second was ... well, it was like someone handing off a message.

In the first case, the agent explained to me that this really good photographer, who I've worked with before, was doing a project on spec for a potential client from France. Sort of a test shoot, I guess. The payoff for me? As he explained, doing the photographer a favor, building that relationship and also getting some new free shots to add to my portfolio (if they choose me).

That was great. That's a lot of good information that makes a lot of sense. So I said yes.

In the second case, it was a call from an intern at 10:30 this morning. The audition had to happen by 1:15 pm. Today. Obviously, I was a last-minute fill-in for someone who dropped out. I had to ask what it was for -- commercial, industrial, what? I had to ask whether it was union or non-union. I had to ask a lot of questions.

I hate these last-minute things. I think it's bullshit. I'm accustomed to the usual less-than-24 hours' notice, but less than three? That's crap. Now in the past, the right agent would explain to me something like, "Hey, we have this opportunity, it's totally last-minute, so I understand if you can't or don't want to do it. Obviously you're a fill-in, but it's a union job, a good client, and I think you match up well with what they're looking for. So if you can do it , I think it would be a good opportunity for you."

In that case I would have probably dropped what I was doing and gone on the audition. But when I get a call from someone who sounds like they know even less about the job than I do? Sorry. I was right in the middle of a client project and didn't feel like blowing up my day's agenda for what would have likely been a huge longshot.

But I would have. With the right amount of information and discussion.

I'm not difficult. I try not to be a prima-donna. But I do require a little bit, just a little bit of ... what? Consideration? Sure, that's it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Elaborate spectacle(s)

It's time for new glasses. I've had the current ones for eight years and two sets of lenses and I think they're just about done.

I'd love to just pop into FourEyes or LensCrafters, try on a couple of frames, pick one and make off with the lucrative discount. But that's for the casual glasses wearer. If I needed mine only for driving or movie watching, I'd do it that way, too.

But these are more than eyeglasses. They are pretty much a permanent part of my face. They have to match the landscape. They have to be distinctive yet also blend in. I don't want to be "glasses guy." I don't want giant Martin Scorcese frames that dominate my face, if not the room.

And I don't want them to be cheap. Check that. I don't want them to look cheap. I'd be fine if they were cheap as long as they didn't appear that way, but that rarely works out. As a regular glasses wearer I can usually spot cheap, ill-fitting frames on people. And it's not just because the frames are cheap, it's because the people at the cheap stores aren't very good at finding the right frames for people.

I'd love to find a bargain, but it rarely works out. Beyond the frames I have to get all sorts of bells and whistles. High-density (ultra-thin) lenses so they don't look like coke bottle bottoms and anti-reflective coating, which camera and lighting guys love but which I always got before I started acting, because I'm vain. Etc.

Making it more complicated is that the glasses are almost part of my personal brand. My professional brand, actually, when it comes to acting. Lots of people remark on them, but casting people seem to especially like them. So whatever I get needs to continue to get me those jobs that cry out for "hip architect" or "slightly left-of-middle business executive" or "upscale urban guy."

So I think the top ones are the winner. Unless I see something else. On the way to robbing a bank.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


When I first started doing on-camera stuff and I'd go through a period of no auditions I assumed that I'd suddenly fallen into disfavor with my agents.

Later I learned that it had little to do with the talent agents. It's the casting agencies that make the decisions. So I assumed I'd done something to piss them off.

Then I learned to calm down, and accept the fact that things run in cycles. For the same reason that I may be auditioning for five different jobs that all shoot the same week, sometimes I go through a stretch with no auditions at all.

So I stopped worrying too much about it -- or at least I stopped taking it personally -- and sure enough, every dry spell is followed by opportunities raining down.

Until this one. This one has weirded me out. Three auditions in almost seven weeks? Crazy. In spite of the fact that I've had four bookings already this year, it was starting to nag at me.

Then last night I went to this monthly industry meet-up and talked to some others about it. This one friend said that one of the interns over at the big casting agency said it's been really, really slow lately. Slow enough that they've been sending the interns home because they don't have enough to do.

So that's good news. (In a way.) It's still very strange that throughout this recession I've experienced steady growth in auditions, jobs and income and just as the economy is supposed to be poised to recover, things grind to a halt. But at least I know it's not me.

One thing I can do is make the most of this time. There's a great on-camera class that I've always thought of taking but never have. This may be the time. Of course, by the time it starts things will probably be hopping again, but that's just the way it is. This will be good for me, in a lot of ways. There's still plenty to learn, and I really miss this stuff.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Oscar lowlights

Bringing together my two worlds, if I was to conduct a seminar on effective corporate communications, I'd point to the Oscars broadcast to illustrate some of the worst practices and habits -- the things that undermine good communications.

As usual, this year's ceremony was undisciplined, inward-looking, politically-driven and committee-developed. That means including in the broadcast lots of categories that most viewers don't care about. (And attempts to help the general audience better understand things like sound editing and screenwriting were not particularly enlightening and only served to take up more time). Along with endless montages and other fluff and filler.

This is the equivalent of the corporate annual report or presentation that has to include every division and credit every person. For fear of alienating some constituency, you get a long, flabby, uninteresting mess. Instead of asking, "What does our audience want/need to know," and focusing on those things, the emphasis is on "What do we want to tell them about ourselves?"

On the other hand, the stuff that worked the best is often what's most overlooked in corporate communications -- the human touch, and appeals to emotion. In the Best Actor/Actress categories, the tributes to each nominee from colleagues were genuine, meaningful and specific. Importantly, they told STORIES instead of merely reciting qualities and achievements. Much more powerful and effective.

The source of all these problems is lack of a clear objective. Or, more likely, competing objectives that lead to a compromised product. What's the point of the broadcast? Is it to celebrate achievement or is it to promote the industry (i.e., get more butts in seats)?

Honoring achievement means being more inclusive and giving everyone their moment in the spotlight. But selling more tickets means attracting big ratings with an entertaining broadcast. Doing both equally well is probably not possible, resulting in an inevitably flawed production.

Of course, we live in the real world. And almost always, disparate constituencies must be pleased and competing objectives must be balanced and butts must be kissed. And just as the the Oscars ceremony is not art, neither are most corporate communications.

The closest I've ever come in the business world to creating the perfect product that almost qualifies as art is the book for Freeborn.

But this isn't about me. It's about me pontificating.

Friday, March 05, 2010

New philosophy

At that networking workshop I sorta audited a couple of weeks ago, I got a great piece of advice from another participant. He's a big social media expert and a major connector type and he said that anytime he meets someone new and adds them to his network he thinks first of all about how he can help them, as opposed to what they can do for him.

It's a great way to look at things. I admit that my first thought in these situations is, "What can you do for me?" But turning that attitude around means being more inclusive and more open. And, as he said, you certainly hope for something in return someday, but it's not your primary consideration. If you work to help others out, good things will likely come back to you.

And, in fact, he's put me in touch with some people who can be really helpful to me, and I'm introducing him to a client of mine.

Anyway, at yesterday's shoot we had all kinds of different people there. They wanted "real" types, and a couple of them were so real they weren't even actors. As we were rotated in and out throughout the day and it was almost like a progressive party or rotisserie thing, where you chat with someone for 10-15 minutes, then you're on to someone else, then you're picking up on a prior conversation with another person, and so on.

And I actually found I had a lot to say and -- more importantly -- a lot to hear from every one of them. Whereas in the past I might have just buried my head in a book or a crossword or my iPhone, I actually had a great time talking and joking with everyone. As a result of the conversations and subsequent exchange of business cards and followup LinkeIn and Facebook connecting, it turns out I have a lot of common with a lot of these people.

Most of all, though, I had a really fun day. I really need to relax more.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Well, auditions have been super-sparse, but at least I've got a booking for tomorrow.

It's a print job, and the pay's okay. It could be better, depending on how they decide to use the work. But at least I didn't have to audition for it. And it's, you know, in this state. So it's got that going for it.

I'm just glad to have something. Seriously, I've had three auditions in six weeks. That's insane. I guess I could have had a couple of more if I hadn't turned them down.

So in preparation for tomorrow I went through my auditions folder, where I keep breakdowns and scripts until such time as a callback or booking is no longer a reasonable possibility. I tore up a lot of paper, and have just one left. And I'm keeping that one only because the casting director said they really, really wanted me. Even that one will expire in a week or two.

It's weird how quickly I've adjusted my mindset. In the past few years, anytime I schedule something-- business meeting, doctor's appointment, even a booking -- I'm always concerned right away that an audition will come up and I'll have to work around it or cancel.

Already in just the past couple of weeks I've been scheduling stuff with barely a worry. Not auditioning feels like the default situation. I'm sure it will pass, as it always does. But this time it feels really different.

And to be honest? In some ways it's nice. More time, less stress, the ability to focus more on client work and marketing. Still, it feels odd when the only time you've gone out in 48 hours is to the gym.

So I'm going to just take this as a positive, things-happen-for-a-reason thing, and just roll with it. Juussssst watch me roll ...

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Choosy mother

I seem to be in the business mainly of turning down auditions lately.

Sometimes I get called directly from local production companies and I've become more and more leery about doing those jobs. First, I've been burned in the past, mainly by being underpaid. Second, I've learned there's an element of quality control that comes with a job that's cast through a casting agency and talent agents.

It shows, first of all, that a client is willing to invest a modicum of serious money into the process. And while money doesn't necessarily translate into quality, doing things on the cheap can be very dangerous. Going through these channels also implies a certain respect for the whole production process. It means you're taking it seriously by getting the help of professionals.

Finally, I think the big casting agencies generally have their own filter. That is, they're usually going to work mainly on higher quality projects.

All that said, I turned down the audition. The money for the job was on the minimal side, though it was a two-t0-three-day booking, which would boost the total fee to something respectable. And this is hardly the kind of economy where I should be turning down potential income.

But again, I think it's a matter of respect. Respecting myself, respecting the work. And helping ensure that my image isn't used on some cheesy, late-night cable commercial that runs for decades.

Monday, March 01, 2010

You can put a price on some things

I'm always trying to figure out my "price." What I'll do or not do for money. I try not to take jobs that will be personally embarrassing or professionally damaging. Local commercials done on shoestring budgets with cheesy scripts, for instance.

Sad to say, when the pay is good, the decision gets a little tougher. I did turn down an audition once for a group trying to kill health reform. That was a no-brainer. On the other hand, I've auditioned for tobacco industry stuff. I'm anti-smoking and pretty intolerant of the habit, but it is legal for now. In fact, I think it's ridiculous to restrict advertising for a legal product.

But when the pay is terrible, it's kind of a relief. I don't have to worry about ethics or my reputation. Last week I got a call for a commercial audition that would have required two trips to Milwaukee (audition then callback with the client) plus a shoot in Madison, which is 3.5 hours away.

All for the princely sum of $540. Subtract three, quite possibly four, days of car rentals (about $200), gas (maybe another $100) and agency commission. Add in two half-days, at least another full day and maybe even an overnight away from home and work and you get yourself down to an hourly wage that's less than what a starting barista might make.

Maybe I'd get a hundred bucks of that back in reimbursed travel expenses if I booked it. On the other hand, maybe I'd go through two auditions and have nothing at all to show for $100-plus in expenditures.

That was a pretty easy call. I think even for someone who actually owns a car it would be a pretty bad deal. On the other hand, the script was kind of funny, which is pretty unusual for a low-budget production. But not nearly funny enough.

So I will not be taking the rural Missouri television market by storm. Not just yet anyway.