the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area

mostly the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also the home of the Counting Actors Project

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Thoughts on Auditions

Recently, I was seen almost 90 minutes past my call time at an audition for an industrial, where when I got in the room, I slated, did profiles, and then they filmed me sitting in a chair flipping through a magazine.  That was it.

Here was the takeaway though:  I was really surprised at the number of people who complained to the audition runner about how late things were running and asked why they weren't being seen.  In general, on-camera auditions for commercials, industrials, etc. are run like this: they see everyone for a group before they move on to the next group.  It has something to do w/organizing the video files for presentation to the client.  So, they see all of the 25-30 something business men before they move on to the 20's college girls and finish with them before they see the Asian grandmas. 

So, you can read the waiting room and don't have to act pesky to the audition runner!  If you get in there and there are a few types sitting around, figure out what group they're on - yours? (short wait).  The one before yours? (a little bit longer wait). Two before yours? (go put more money in your meter now, call the babysitter, etc. - you're going to be a while).  It seemed like many people at the audition didn't know this, and there were quite a few people stressed out about getting tickets, or picking their kids up.  I'm sure those folks didn't give their best auditions, and asking when they'd be seen made them seem more like amateurs who didn't know what they were doing.

I know this sounds kind of sucky.  No one wants to wait 90 minutes past their appointment time for anything (and in fact if this was a SAG audition, they would've had to pay us to wait longer than 60 minutes).   It is yet another reminder of the unbalanced power in an audition situation.  But as actors, what we have power over is our preparation and our planning, including where we park (maybe a lot where you pay on your way out instead of a meter?).

P.S. check this out!  It's a commercial I shot with the awesome Scott and Tory of Two Trick Pony!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

who I've been: 5/17-5/23

In a week of auditions, classes, and acting projects, here are the character descriptions of who I've been:
1) scientist
2) rape victim
3) pregnant wife of mine worker
4) queen of the fairies
5) lawyer mother of teen w/cerebral palsy
6) gypsy-dressing lady who can't have kids and wants to steal one

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dear low-budget independent film-maker

I'm an actor.  I'm thinking of auditioning for your unpaid project.  The character description sounds great and I love the premise. I've worked on approximately 30 on-camera projects including independent shorts and features, industrials and commercials.  I'm always looking for quality footage since I'm still building a reel, and I know that some of what will move my career forward is building relationships with talented people.

However, before I commit to an audition that involves mileage, bridge toll, and commute time, I'd really like to see a script.  It doesn't need to be a whole script.  It could just be a sample.  I'd also feel better if you could point me towards your internet presence - do you have other projects online?  A website for your production company? An IMDB page?  I sent you a resume, a photo, my website address, where you can see some video of me acting.   Why don't you want me to know who you are and what you do?  That may not be your intent, but that's what it feels like over here.

You say you'd like people to read sides at the audition, but you won't be giving out those sides until we get to the audition.  I'd understand this if you were making the prequel to LOST or something, but (no offense) I don't think your project has a profile that high.  What you need on set is a well-prepared actor.  If you don't let me have sides in advance, how can you assess my skills at preparing? Also, I'm well acquainted w/the styles of Christopher Guest as well as Cassavetes and Mike Leigh and I know that sometimes people improvise to create a certain naturalistic style, and I'd love to do that on a film project someday.  So if you want to do that too, let me know upfront, and share your resume, so that I know you know what you're doing.

I wish your project the best.  I really do.  But with your secrecy (that I sometimes fear is hiding the fact that you actually haven't finished your script), I'm going to have to pass on the audition.  In my 15 year acting career, I've unfortunately encountered a few flakes who thought it would be fun to make a movie and didn't realize how much work there is, and the project doesn't get completed, and I've given up my time and gotten nothing in return.  And I've learned through experience that the flakes tend to be the ones who won't share their script or information prior to the audition.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Resource: Monologue hunting and overdone monologues

Don't know about you, but my monologues are feeling stale, I'm not in rehearsal or production for anything, so now seems like a good time to do some looking for new monologues.

I'll be using the library to get started, of course.  But, I just found this cool website that lists overdone monologues for women, men, and Shakespeare.  It looks like a terrific resource.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mary and Maryssa - check them out!

What do these ladies have in common?  Not only the first four letters of their names, but they're also both actors, and both bloggers (and they've both written actual comments on this blog - thanks!).

Thought you might like to look at their blogs, so here's where you find 'em!

Mary's blog: Mary has been blogging daily (or almost daily) since finishing grad school and moving to NYC.  Keep up w/her through the ins and outs of EPAs, day jobs, and her daily routines.

Maryssa's blog:  Maryssa is an actor, but also loves food and cooking, so her blog is full of recipes, restaurant recommendations and food news.  It's thanks to Maryssa that I know you can massage kale!

Both of these women are super talented, so check them out!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sidney Lumet, RIP

Making Movies is Sidney Lumet's book about just that.  It's fantastic.

In The Pawnbroker, Rod Steiger is the title character, running a pawn shop in Harlem in the 1960's, haunted by flashbacks of his youth/childhood in Nazi Germany.  It's gritty, sad, well-acted and well-shot.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is from 2006, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke are brothers, with a heist idea - a terrific plot, and more great acting.

Yes, there's Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, 12 Angry Men, Network, and even The Wiz.  An amazing body of work.  Worth checking out.

P.S.  I got all the titles on this list from the library.  For free.

Monday, April 11, 2011

fall down seven times...

get up eight. 

Earlier this week I learned about 2 gigs I didn't get, and one more that it's looking like I probably won't get, pretty much all on the same day.  On the heels of a string of gigs that I haven't gotten, which I've learned I haven't gotten because of technicalities relating to union status and budget, having nothing to do w/my acting talent. 

All of this happening while I'm in this screeech of a slow down.  It's tough.  It totally sucks.  I spent about a day kind of going through the motions, dwelling on the unfairness of all of this as it relates to me.

Then, I read something that included the Japanese proverb at the top - something about the resiliency of the Japanese people in the face of crisis.  Fall down seven times, get up eight. 

This is where actors have to live, my friends.  We have to be ready to keep getting up.  For me, repeating this proverb shook me out of my funk, and brought regular exercise, classes, and taking care of my body, mind and soul into a new focus.

So, I'll see you out there.  I'm dusting off the low mood.  And getting up.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I like reading biographies and autobiographies.

I like reading about actors and entertainment professionals to learn a bit more about their career paths and the industry in general. Sometimes, it'll give me leads on plays I should check out, and at the very least, it helps me know that I'm not alone - lots of people have paid lots of dues before achieving any kind of success.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin is a terrific read in this category.  It's great to know that he's held some weird actor jobs (like working in the magic shop in Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland), and he's a terrific and articulate writer.

I also like reading historical biography/autobiography as a way to deepen my understanding of human nature, and to get the personal stories that are part of the greater story of human history.  Two recent ones that I liked:

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson is sort of a multi-faced biography.  It is a history of the 20th century Great Migration of African-Americans out of the south beginning in the 1930's - she tells the specificstories of 3 people who migrated in the 30's, 40's and 50's and also intersperses their stories w/general information about the Great Migration, life for African-Americans in the south at that time, etc.  It just won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the author is a Pulitzer winner.  Reading this book made recent experiences of seeing Clybourne Park at ACT, and the 90's film Mississippi Burning, into much richer experiences.

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacey Schiff.  The cast of characters in this book include the biblical Herod, as well as Mark Antony and Julius Caesar.  This biography put several ancient cities of Europe and the Middle East in a better context for me, and I'm looking forward to revisiting some of these characters in Shakespeare soon.

What biographies or autobiographies have you enjoyed recently?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Resource: casting websites

Where do you look for work?

For theater and teaching work, I check the Theatre Bay Area website (members only).  I also look for theater jobs at the Actor's Equity website (free to look at) and did that even before I was a member of Equity - some projects are casting both Equity and non-Equity actors, and there'll be more info at the Equity site than TBA. 

For on-camera projects, I look at SFCasting (members only), Now Casting (free - but you have to create a profile), and the Reel Directory Production Hub page (free).

And then there's craigslist.  Acting work is posted in two places on the craigslist site.  Under 'jobs' there's a classification tv/film/video.  Any work you find here should be paid work - if they aren't paying, flag it as miscategorized.  Under 'gigs' there's a classification 'talent'.  And what's here is the wild west of jobs.  I have found legit projects here that paid a few thousand dollars, and I also see a lot of scams and opportunities to be photographed or filmed w/no clothes on.  A few warning signs to watch for w/craigslist:
  • when 'a major hollywood casting company' is casting 'lead roles' in a blockbuster film or top 10 tv show at an 'open call'  especially when that film is already showing trailers in the theaters.
  • the phrase 'no experience required' - often this is because the people making the project have little to no experience themselves.  Or they just want you to take your clothes off.
  • really short casting timelines for independent/no-budget film.  For commercials, the casting often happens really quickly, but if you're shooting an indie and you're organized, you've probably been planning to shoot for weeks if not months, and therefore did casting a while ago.  If the ad says 'we're shooting tomorrow and need an actress' you can expect disorganization
  • phrases like 'open-minded' or 'must be really really hot' or a lot of emphasis on physical attributes.  Again, they probably just want you to take your clothes off.
  • anything that requires you to sign up for a profile at another casting site in order to be considered for the project.  They probably don't have a project, but just want to collect your name and email address for their site to sell you some kind of service.
Like I said above, there's all kinds of opportunities on craigslist, but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Trust your gut.