Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sweet November

Can't really describe this month as sweet. Not yet, at least. But it is starting out, well, semi-sweet. Yes, kinda like those chocolate chips you add to cookie dough.

The title is actually from a song by the '80s R&B group, The Deele, which is also where Babyface and L.A. Reid started. It's a great song, by the way. If you like Babyface, you must listen to this song.

I've been at my new job for a little over a month now. Haven't been able to keep this updated because there are many restrictions placed on computer usage at this office. That's what happens, though. You get into a corporate environment, and you find out they actually hired someone who monitors your computer usage. Not only that, but they'll keep track of how long you talk on the phone, and what numbers you are calling.

I can't complain about this new job. At all. It's right in the heart of Old Town Pasadena, which means I can walk to hundreds of places to eat, and spends hundreds of dollars doing it. Not to mention the fact that I can also spends hundreds more by shopping at some of my favorite clothing shops: the Gap, Banana Republic, Armani A/X. I even have the opportunity to shop at places I don't normally go: Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Urban Outfitters.

This all reminds me of the time I used to sell men's clothing in Seattle at Southcenter Mall. Every paycheck went to buying more clothes. I never saved a dime. Which is what I'm doing now. I'm eating and wearing all my weekly wages. There's no end in sight to it. In fact, after getting sick of the stores in Old Town, I found out I could walk a few more blocks to get to the Paseo-Colorado shopping mall where there's a Macy's and a DSW, which I think stands for Designer Shoe Warehouse. Just bought a new pair of shoes there, in fact. I'll be going back there often. I even signed up for a frequent shopper card. I get $25 credit every time I spend $200 (accumulated) there.

Oh, and then I got a mailer that there's a sale coming up at Macy's this Thursday. Can't miss that one. I'm going on my lunch break. I'm in big trouble already!

I don't know what this is. I mean, 8 months ago, I was a starving artist/freelancer. Barely making ends meet with my $350 a week in unemployment compensation. I'd buy maybe one new piece of clothing a month. Now, I'm doing it every week, sometimes twice a week. And if I skip one week, you can bet I'll make up for it the next week.

Last weekend, I went to IKEA and bought new shelves and lamps. What the hell? I've become a compulsive shopper!

As for the acting, I was pondering my future. I mean, going to auditions from Pasadena is a bitch! But what's weird, though, is they encourage such outside interests. Several of the folks in my department are in the arts. One has a one-woman show next week. Another does voice-overs. And one does stand-up comedy. I actually "belong" by being an actor. If I book a gig, they'll have no problem with it. It's crazy! I feel I'm working at artist heaven! Two-hour lunch to go to an audition? Sure, but record only one hour for lunch. What? That's insane!

This month, I realized I've come full circle. I quit a full-time job about 6 years ago in order to become a writer and an actor. I've established that life, and now I'm doing that AND working full-time. I think I've beaten the system. I'm Neo. I'm the protagonists in most of Ayn Rand's books. I'm ME!

Now, if I can only stop shopping.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Phone Call

Hey, I just got a call from one of the instructors of my Cold Tofu class. It looks like I've been invited to join the next level, which is the lab class.

I guess my delusions weren't so off after all....

Got Home Early

I left the office today around 5:30. I was running out of steam and, also, running out of stuff to do. So, I got on the 110 South and headed home. Passed through Chinatown easily and onto the 101 Hollywood freeway. Wow, that was a breeze. I need to leave work at 5:30 every day. I got home in probably less than 20 minutes, from start to finish. Amazing.

I decided to use my extra time to go take a walk down Sunset Blvd. and visit a store I've been wanting to shop ever since I moved to Hollywood: DNA Clothing Company. Halfway there, I passed the Guitar Center and made a mental note to take a peek on my way back.

The store was empty and soon I began gathering an armload of stuff to try on. This place used to be my favorite store when I used to shop it in the Venice Beach area on Rose Street. They always had outlet store prices on some really cool shit.

Today, it wasn't much different. It had been about 8 years since I last shopped the Venice Beach store. Some really cool shit at outlet prices. I ended up buying a T-shirt and a retro-looking sweater.

On the return trip down Sunset, I passed by a young black girl who looked familiar. In fact, it took me 2 whole seconds to figure out where I had seen her: at the bus stop in front of Ralph's, sitting next to her friend or brother. The only reasons I had remembered her was because she was looking pretty fly, and she must've been only about 13. Her friend/brother couldn't have been older than 10. For a 13-year-old, she was unusually well-endowed on top, or so it seemed. Anyway, all I remember was it struck me as odd. This young, skinny little girl with a shapely top.

I stopped into a pizza restaurant I had been wanting to try: Ruffalo's. There were a couple of them in the area and I always thought about going in to try my favorite pizza combination: salami and fresh tomatoes. I ordered a Beck's while I waited for the pizza and the lady instead brought me a Peroni, which I learned is an imported Italian beer. Embarrassed, she quickly suggested she would bring me a Beck's, but I insisted on trying the Peroni.

It was slightly sweet and tangy at the same time. It definitely had something Italian about it. But the lady was right. It most resembled a Heineken, especially that skunky aftertaste.

I decided to enjoy half the pizza at the restaurant, and so sat down near a TV and watched Entertainment Tonight and the Hollywood Insider. It's funny about these shows. I can watch one episode a month, and never feel like I'm missing anything.

On the way back, I passed by the young black girl, once again. She had already gone up and down the street. Sure enough, her brother/friend was sitting at the bus stop, her green and red jacket over his lap. He looked worried, as if some cop or bad man were going to give him a hard time; maybe even arrest him.

I felt bad for this young boy, more so than for the young girl. I don't know why. I think this boy saw this girl on the street and felt sorry for her. This girl decided to take him along and keep her company. Either that, or this boy was actually her younger brother, and he was there to make sure nobody hurt her older sister.

Damn, it makes me feel crunchy inside. Mostly because I don't really know what I could do to help them. Obviously, I could do something. But what that something is, I just don't know. Because I just don't want to do the wrong thing, and there's so many wrong things I can probably do.

The only thing I could really come up with was to give the boy some money and tell him to tell his sister to get off the street. I doubt that would send them any sort of message though. Because I'm still giving them what they're after, and probably not enough to make a difference.

Hopefully, tomorrow, I'll get off work at a regular hour, and not have so much time to go shopping on Sunset.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Studios

Don't know if I can do this justice, but I looked at my dashboard today, and I noticed I've been to three of Hollywood's major studios for different reasons. (I've got three different vehicle passes for three different studios on the top of my dash.)

On Wednesday, of course, went to Disney, which owns ABC. For those of you outside of this area, Disney is all over Burbank, and I went to one of their many buildings.

On Friday, I had a meeting with my short film group. I probably haven't mentioned this before, but some folks from my improv class started a short film group called Guy in the Corner Productions. During the first meeting, around Venice Beach, a guy was in the corner of this coffee shop, listening to our brainstorming session. So, we called the group you-know-what.

The meeting took place on the Paramount lot, in the Jerry Lewis building. A girl from our group, apparently, is interning or working (I'm not sure which) at Paramount and we got to use one of their conference rooms. It's actually a cool environment for this sort of thing. More on that later.

That night, a guy was listening in on our meeting on the speakerphone. I didn't know who this guy was, but he was talking like he was actually there, giving feedback here and there. After the meeting, he suggested a "meet and greet" at his office, which is on the Universal/NBC lot in Studio City. So, at 9:30pm, a few of us went there for a "drive on," which means they give the security guard your name and they take your ID and let you drive onto the lot. We had to have one for the Paramount meeting, too.

We went upstairs of the 5225 building, otherwise known as the Owens Bradley building, and had a short meeting in the conference room that is normally saved for the folks who do "Crossing Jordan." I like this show, especially the woman who plays Jordan, who also was on "Law & Order" for a number of years.

The guy we met, it turns out, was a PA on the show. Actually, the correct terminology is Office PA, which apparently is a step higher than production PA.

You know, really, there's a lot of bullshit with these titles, and the guy admitted that. But he said he met a guy who said he worked on "ER," but really was just a production PA, and not a head production PA. Lot of bullshit, I tell ya.

I parked in the space reserved for the production designer of "Crossing Jordan." Then we had our meeting with this real geek of a guy who admitted he was just there to make the contacts. Other than that, he spends 16 hours a day in the office, often going in on weekends.

That night, we decided to meet the next day, which was Saturday. We went in at 1 p.m., again getting the drive-on credentials, and I parked in Ron Howard's spot at the Imagine area. Didn't know I was parking there at the time, but a tree happened to provide shade from the afternoon sun, so I took it.

A tram from Universal Studios Amusement Park drove by and I waved the obligatory wave to them, much to their excitement. (I've been on one of these and believe me, it's exciting when one of the execs on the lot waves to you.)

We then went in to the downstairs lobby and sat at a coffee table and had a 4-hour writers' meeting. It was actually very productive and we hammered out the "beats" for the first half of the short.

At 5, I had to go and get ready for my Cold Tofu appearance at 7:30, so we adjourned the meeting, which eventually took place upstairs in the "Crossing Jordan" office, just outside of the conference room we were in the night before.

There's not much to this office, really. Just a bunch of offices. Lots of offices. No cubicles. A secretary's desk. Many posters, awards, dry erase boards announcing the week's accomplishments such as moving up in the ratings. At some point, I went to the bathroom and noticed there was a shower in it. Apparently, a lot of people spend nights there.

Throughout the afternoon, a lot of the staff from "Crossing Jordan" brings their relatives and friends there for little tours and to show off. We saw about 7 people who were doing this. The guy we were there with kept explaining to the visiting staff that we were just waiting for some friends before heading off to lunch. Anyway, that was the story. We got a lot of work done, and hammered out the first half of the outline for our short. This guy (who works for "Crossing Jordan" as an office PA) is actually pretty good at outlining these things. I guess he sits in on a lot of these sessions. So, we got a lot done, in a short amount of time.

I think I liked the Paramount lot the best. I actually worked there last summer on a Ford commercial in the New York lot, and the entire studio really feels like a studio. Universal looks like an amusement park, and it seems the staff at Universal agrees. Every few minutes, a tram passes by, often playing some theme song for a famous movie, always at the same exact spot.

Then I went home, showered, took some herbs to make me feel spiritual (can't really explain this right now), and then drove to the Little Tokyo area where we have our Cold Tofu appearances. I always check the sigalert.com website to see how traffic was doing on the 101 freeway. It was bad, but getting better somewhere around Sunset.

I got on the freeway around 6:32, but was supposed to be at the Cold Tofu place at 6:30. Who cares? I'll be ready when I have to be, I thought. Sure enough, once I got there, I waited for about 20 minutes before we all went into warm-ups.

The performance was up and down. I had one really good scene. I'm tempted to say "great scene," but who am I kidding? It was really good, and I'm satisfied with that. However, I had one really mediocre scene which I'm still thinking about.

After the show, we went to Little Tokyo for food and libations. But at some point, I excused myself to head to Koreatown where my friends were entertaining some nice Korean girls. A few hours later, and $160 shorter, I left the parking lot. I didn't even get so much as a kiss from one of the girls. But that's to be expected. I didn't even get a phone number.

Now I'm home, exhausted, but not quite enough to pass out. I had a heckuva day. Writing, performing -- oh, and I bought tires from Costco.com -- and hanging out with some lovely women.

All in all, it wasn't a bad day.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Update

A lot has happened over the past 4 weeks. Where do I start?

I ended my contract job in hell. That was a relief. Have you ever been in hell? I've been there a few times, it seems.

Once, when I worked a summer job in a hot-ass bakery making 10,000 loaves of bread. I was 19 then.

Then there was the time I was in France with my ex. Well, it wasn't good. That's why she's my ex.

And now, there's my last contract job. Truthfully, I could've left the contract. They were expecting me to. Everyone was: my agent, the traffic manager, my supervisor, my friends, you folks reading this. Everyone. But then for some reason, I decided to trudge it out, slog through the knee-deep shit I was treading in every day. It was more an endurance test than a challenge. Maybe I was challenging my tolerance.

Today, I was told to fill in my time card for 40 hours a week, regardless of how many hours I actually put in. Apparently, it's in the budget. My supervisor told me so, and she just got a major promotion today.

I work at a big corporation that most people in America have probably heard of or even patronize. It's not my thing to reveal where I'm working at, so don't expect me to this time. But I'm so damn traumatized from my last place, I filed my last timesheet counting every single minute I wasn't in the office. They wondered why I had less than 40 hours. Okay, don't fight the system, I'm starting to understand. I guess they want to retain me for a while.

I started there the Monday after I ended my contract, which was on a Wednesday. I didn't quite have two days off. A friend/colleague of mine asked me to come in on Friday to work. I happily obliged, mostly because I'd do just about anything for her, and because I wanted to buy some new tires for my Explorer. Thanks to her, I can buy all four of them at Costco for about $500. Yeah, tires are frickin' expensive.

I've been at this new job for about 3 weeks now. The hardest part is staying awake, since the workload isn't so hard, and the damn fluorescent lights lull me to sleep. I hate cubicles. Actually, because of some back order on cubicle walls, I have to share a large cubicle with two other proofers.

Today, I went to lunch with some co-workers. It was a damn 2-hour lunch. I went back and thought about putting on my time sheet that I had a 2-hour lunch. Yesterday, I had an audition in the Westside. I work in Pasadena. It took me 90 minutes to get there and back. So, I was going to say I took a 90-minute lunch. Plus, I left work early, at 5 p.m., in order to go to an audition at ABC for a network talent showcase. Oh, that's what I wanted to mention.

A couple of days ago, I got home from work. I checked my mail and there was a check from Talent Partners, a payment processing company for the entertainment industry. I didn't know what the check was for. But whatever it was, it felt like free money. Sure enough, it was a standard reuse fee for some video footage I was in. I shot that over 3 years ago, in fact, and they're paying me a reuse fee. Damn! I wrote my agent a check for 10 percent, copied the checkstub, and sent it to them the next day. Some people wouldn't do that, but I'm just that kind of guy. They were my agents then, as they are now.

Then I sort of half-noticed I had a message on my answering machine. I don't give a shit about this answering machine because no one except about 3 people know this number and they all know how else to reach me. But this was from ABC casting, and they wanted me to read for this talent showcase audition the next day. They said where I could buy the sides.

So, I was damn excited. I didn't even submit for this showcase. I was supposed to, but blew it off. I don't know why they would call me. I don't have a resume worth bothering about. Anyway, my friend was going to pick me up in a few minutes to see a screening of "Capote" at the DGA, sponsored by the Editors' Guild.

Damn good flick, I say, even though I know squat about the author or the period. I didn't even know a female author wrote "To Kill a Mockingbird." Anyway, Phillip Seymour Hoffman is frickin' fantastic.

After the movie, I downloaded the sides and began to study the part. There were 6 pages of dialogue, all with another character. I tried to run the lines as best I could, but I knew it wasn't very good or natural. So, I got a tape recorder, read over the other character's lines, pausing (silently) enough for my lines. I then played this recording over and over, trying to get the dialogue to sound natural and memorized. I wanted to make sure I was off book for this audition, and I knew I'd have to work all day and not get a chance to work on it.

I began doing dishes, cleaning up, preparing my clothes for the next day, all while doing my lines with the tape recorder. The next day, since I had an audition around lunchtime, I had to wear something that would fit both auditions.

That's the trouble with working a day job, folks. Most actors I know can prepare all day for the audition. Me? I gotta get ready early in the morning, figure out my audition clothes, and look my best from the moment I get into my car to go to work. By the time I get to the first audition, I'm already looking worse. By the time night rolls around, I'm worn down and my clothes are wrinkled. I'm not bitching, just stating the facts.

On the way to the first audition, I played the tape and went over my lines a few times. My mind was totally on the drive, so I barely concentrated on the scene. Which is what I wanted. On the way back, I did it a few more times, being careful not to over-rehearse the scene. (It is my theory that you want to hit the audition when the lines are not quite locked into your memory, so that you have to still think it out while the lines are being said.)

Oh, the lunchtime audition was a print job for Verizon, which reminds me, I had an audition for a T-Mobile commercial the week before. I totally screwed it up. It was a sorry-ass audition. But then they called me for a callback last Friday. I had a second chance...to screw it up again. Yeah, I'm a screw-up. They liked me and I screwed it up. They gave me a second chance and I just spit it back at them. I'm a loser, okay?

So, this week, I decided to make up for that. Besides, if I did the commercial, I probably wouldn't be able to do the audition for ABC, since it was supposed to shoot this week. Also, I didn't want to get in trouble at work so early in my career there.

Anyway, I got to ABC, went up to the 9th floor, checked in, looked at my lines a few times, went to the bathroom, peed, washed off my sweaty palms, didn't even bother to fix my hair or clothes, and then went back to the waiting area. They called me, I sat down, and we went into it, full steam ahead, all pistons blowing. That guy didn't stop for nothing. It was all back-and-forth banter, bam, bam, bam.

Amazingly, I kept up with him, all the way. I had my script on my lap, but only looked down once to see where we would be starting the scene. I said thank you and walked out. I wasn't sure I had done the whole thing already, since it was so fast. Okay, maybe this guy was just an intern, and they were just going through the process for some diversity program ABC has. But still, I made a small little personal leap that night.

Later, I went to my last official Cold Tofu class. I'm officially graduated from Level 3 now. We have a performance this Saturday. I'm not really telling people about it, though. I'm still not thinking I'm worth the price of admission, which happens to be "pay what you can." Some day, though, when I think I'm worth it, I'll be telling people, and they'd better show up.

There was an evaluation of everyone in the class, and then we did some exercises in preparation for this Saturday's performance. We're doing something called 60-30-15-5. You do a scene in 60 seconds, then the same scene in 30, then 15, and then 5, each time breaking it down to just the heart of the scene for the amount of time allotted. This is fun as hell, and I think fun to watch too.

The instructors have always been vague in their evaluations of me. Not very generous of their assessment of me. But they've always had no doubt about putting me in the next level. They're not kind to me because they don't want to see me relax and stop my learning curve.

Well, at least that's what my delusions are telling me. I converse with them every day.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Counting Down the Days

I'm down to my last two weeks of work on my 6-month contract. A friend called me today and he said I sounded a little sad about it. To be honest, I am a little sad about it. Almost from the day I started this contract, I couldn't wait to leave it, mostly because of the workload and the stupid people I work with.

But I just grit my teeth and hunkered down with the work. I've had health insurance for the last 6 months, though I had no time to actually visit a doctor's office. Hopefully, before these two weeks are up, I'll get a dentist appointment in to get some fillings changed. Wouldn't mind a full physical at a doctor's office. Haven't had one in a long, long time.

So now that it's near the end of this thing, I do believe that I may actually miss it a bit. I'll certainly miss the routine of getting up in the morning, making coffee, driving to work and having to be someplace every weekday morning at an assigned hour. Then there's the daily arguments and debates with the traffic manager. A few of these turned quite heated. Had to apologize on more than one occasion. But she had to also, at least once.

I unapologetically snapped at the Osugi lady here, at least once. As much as I hate her, I will probably miss her too. Don't know why that is, but it just is.

I just bought a new iBook computer and I'm getting it all squared away for a long vacation I hope to take. I'm looking at Asia. Maybe an all-Asia pass on Cathay-Pacific for $1200. That's a bit pricey for me, but it might be a while before I ever go back, so I might as well make a trip out of it.

So, I got some money in the bank, a new toy and a possible trip lined up. Not bad for enduring some serious pain for 6 months. If I don't work for another 6 months, I'll have unemployment covering me at $411 a week. That's enough to cover rent and pay for some expenses.

After coming back from vacation, I'm going to see if my old Hollywood film studio needs my help again. Never hurts to plan for the worst, right?

And if this current workplace should ask me back next year at even twice the rate, I'm going to say "HELL NO!!"

Aw, shoot, they just bought me lunch. Trying to butter me up, I see. Oh well... I'll just have to wait till next year before I decide what to do about this place.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Insurance

I had an audition for an insurance commercial. It's a testimonial type of spot with a guy giving a spiel as a customer. I think they wanted regular guys to go in and since I got the call after I had already gotten to work, I looked pretty regular: unshaven face, hair looking like I just woke up, a shirt that was one of my more unflattering ones. Yeah, I'm going to get this one.

Fortunately, the casting was with one of my favorite casting people. So, there tends to be some support there. If I kick ass in the audition, she would most certainly tell them I look better on most days.

I tried to memorize the script handed to us at the audition but it was just too long. Fortunately, it was written on a board in front of the camera.

The guy in the casting room was very cool and apparently he went to my college, Washington State University. He named off some professor names but I hadn't heard of them. Actually, I thought he was naming football coaches until I realized he was naming professors. These were all way before my time.

I did two auditions on tape until he said he was going to rewind the tape and told me to do it one more time. Obviously, the first two were junk. On the third, I nailed it. He knew it, I knew it. Done deal.

I shook his hand on the way out and thanked him for the third try. If nothing else, I had a great audition. Can't complain about that.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Not Even the Half of It

Humiliation doesn't even begin to describe what I actually had to go through yesterday.

I'm wearing flip-flops and my board shorts, all prepared to take off my shirt inside the casting room. But when I get there, the lady checking us in asks me, "Are you wearing underwear underneath those?"

"Yes, I am. Uh, not very nice ones though."

"Oh, hopefully not Spongebob ones," she quipped.

"No, I left those at home."

"Well, in that case, would you mind doing the audition in your underwear? We need to see as much of your body as possible."

So, I get it. My agent said to wear a bathing suit, which I took to mean swimming trunks. But no, she meant "bathing suit" as in Speedos.

I looked around the room. It was an even split between black and white men. I was the only Asian. One guy looked to be hiding a pot belly under his loose T-shirt. I relaxed and told the lady I'd do it.

Just before I was to go in for the audition, the casting assistant directed me to undress in a hallway which was covered over by a makeshift curtain. There were two chairs there, one covered by clothes. I put my stuff down on the other and proceeded to strip down to my undies. Not nice ones, mind you, but not Spongebobs.

I know that people say that to overcome nervousness, you imagine them in their underwear. But what happens if you're the one wearing underwear?

The guy coming out of the audition room was a good-looking white guy in better shape than me. "It's all yours," he said.

I walked in, pitter-patting across the linoleum floor in my bare feet. A lady was at a computer giving instructions to the video guy behind a camera. She then got up and left the room. The guy behind the camera then instructs me to perform as if I'm a model for an art class. Stand with my hands on my side. Turn around, hands folded behind my back.

Ya know, I can't imagine what the callbacks would be like, but I'll be glad if I don't get one. Usually, there's about 6 people in those rooms, all talking as if you're a dead piece of meat on display.

When I left the audition room, the guy with the pot belly was waiting outside in the hallway, ready to go in. "It's all yours," I said.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Humiliation

I finally have a commercial audition tomorrow and I've been told I need to wear a bathing suit. OH SHIT!!

What to do, besides losing 5 pounds overnight? I guess I'll have to go in and put my best skinny face on.

I actually did a couple of commercials in a bathing suit, and I looked fat and out of shape. Why do they cast me? Just to humiliate me?

That's it. It's a huge conspiracy by the casting people to humiliate me. I knew it!!

Last week, I had an audition for a Japanese chef. This was for a phone company, I think.

Man, I'm stinking in terms of callbacks and bookings this year. Must be a slump I'm having. I haven't booked a big job or even a little one, for that matter. Just print jobs. That's it. And I haven't booked one of those in several months.

Just wish I could book something where I don't have to wear a bathing suit.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Got Greedy

So yesterday after the show, Aaron, our instructor, gave me and the two girls some notes about our performance. He mentioned that I was doing what I usually do: think too much.

But I have to say that, yesterday, I wasn't thinking too much. I was purely just enjoying the moment. I was present, the audience was there with me. I couldn't ask for a better drug. Okay, so I overindulged a bit at times. I got greedy for it.

Today, my friend said that Aaron told her I was "great." HA! Didn't know I was "great." But damn, if that ain't a nice thing to hear every once in a while.

A Good Show

Yesterday, I performed live in front of a young and, at first, difficult audience. And I had a good show. Not a great show, but a good one.

Personally, I'll take a hundred good shows over one great show, because that, in my book, equals greatness.

I did a couple of improv skits with two girls from my class. The show was called Tuesday Night Cafe and it happens twice a month outside the entrance to the East West Players Theatre. Next door is a cafe that serves food and beer, so I guess that's where the cafe part comes in.

We were the first ones on. I mean, do you know how tough that is? Fortunately, I was so in the present moment, I didn't have time to think about anything. And I realized that that was the definition of a good show for me: just being in the present moment. It's easy to get out of that, too. You make one stupid comment and the comment starts to replay in your mind, and then you're fucked. Might as well call it a night.

One of the girls I performed with has a tendency to argue and raise her voice on stage, no matter what we're improvving. The other can just stop right in the middle because she's uncomfortable or too self-conscious. I often talk about sex, which tends to be my crutch. So, we ended up doing three skits, and in each one, we talked about sex. The girl who gets self-conscious got a bit self-conscious during one skit, but I managed to keep the audience in on the fact that I was aware of it also.

The other girl argued and raised her voice during one skit, but I managed to make my interaction work with it. And I really think that because the audience was young and, at first, difficult, the fact that she raised her voice and argued really got their attention. So, in short, that worked too.

But you can't do good, entertaining improv unless you stay in the moment. I had a good show. I hope to have 99 more just like it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Community Service Award

Cold Tofu just got a community service award from the Nisei Week Foundation. There was an awards dinner last night in Little Tokyo at the New Otani Hotel. (For the those of you outside of L.A., "New" is part of the hotel's name.) I went and had a great time with some other Cold Tofuers, most of whom are either a core member or in the lab class, which comes after level three.

I know it all seems like another bureaucracy, but it's really a combination of that and a meritocracy. There are people who have a serious desire to improve themselves through improv, but probably shouldn't be on stage in front of an audience. If powers of authority like you and you've gone through the Tofu system, you might be asked to be an associate. Which means you're being groomed for the core group.

I love the bureaucratic system. It's really an easy system to both enter and climb, as long as you play along with the rules. I wanted to be a DJ at one of my college's many radio stations. You would apply for a timeslot, but on the application form, it said that those who did volunteer work would be favored for a slot. This actually translates to: If you don't do the grunt work, you're not getting a slot.

The first time I applied, I didn't get a spot. The second time I applied, I had done some grunt work such as cleaning the studio, and got a prime Friday night spot from 10 pm to 2 am. ( On a side note, four hours is a long time to be playing music. Especially if you don't like most of the station's music selection. I had my friends send me tapes of good R&B, and I actually developed a following among my school's football players and some girls in the Hawaii club. In fact, they'd often call to request a song.)

It seems every theatre group has some sort of bureaucracy, and that drives a lot of my actor friends crazy. They don't want to do what they consider bullshit. But I think that's why they got into acting in the first place: They couldn't deal with office bullshit, which tends to be, yes, bureaucratic. Consequently, I see them always on the fringes of the acting community, but never having a sense of community or belonging.

The point of all this is that, yesterday, after 13 years in L.A., I've finally found a sense of community and belonging. It's a wonderful thing, and something I haven't felt since living in South Central where my neighbors actually cared if I was alive, or had eaten dinner.

But this also means that the wanderlust in me will probably strike again. And then I'll leave the nest, and find another home in the world. It's just something I tend to do. Lately, I've been thinking about France. Then again, it might just be the Groundlings.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Absurdity of It All

Just about every afternoon at work, I have this Rosencrantz & Gildenstern-like conversation with the traffic manager, whom proceeds to ask me if I will come in a half hour early.

I then proceed to say, "Sure, I can do that. No problem."

She says, "Are you sure you can get up?"

"Absolutely. In fact, I wouldn't mind getting off work early tomorrow anyway. So what time would you like me to come in? 8:30, 9:00, 9:30."

And she says, "9:00 would be lovely."

To which I answer, "9:00 it is." And each day, I arrive at around the same time: 9:45, give or take 5 or 10 minutes. Later, the traffic manager will ask me, "What happened to 9:00?" And I'll answer something like, "I tried. I really did. But there was too many cars on the road. It just wasn't happening."

And she proceeds to say, "Why do I even bother asking you to come in early?" But every afternoon, she comes into my office, asking if I will "please come in early."

I hate to disappoint her. She seems so sincere about the urgency. But frankly, and this is so not Rosencrantz & Gildenstern, but I really don't give a damn about what time I come in. I don't say that, but the traffic manager already knows that about me. And so every day, we have that stupid little exchange, and it all seems to be a perfect part of our stupid daily lives.

Level 3

Just started the Cold Tofu Level 3 workshop yesterday. It was a small turnout -- about 5 people -- but apparently the entire Level 2 class except for one person is returning. Plus, we gained one guy from a different class.

All in all, it was a fun class. Did some new exercises. But not much to report, except that I got to do some of my characters due to someone suggesting that my character in a scene had schizophrenia. And that my specific kind had to due with multiple personalities. I only got through three, but it was fun to do and the audience (the rest of the class) seemed to enjoy it.

Afterward, we went to Little Tokyo for a quick bite to eat, and on my way there, I ran into some folks I did a movie with last year. They were all gathered at a place called Cosmos, which is a Japanese karaoke bar. (I wanted to say it was a Japanese dive bar, but that's only how it looks from the outside.)

After my quick bite with my classmates, I rejoined the cast and crew of the movie and proceeded to drink too much beer and talk way too much about my personal life. I had drank so much, I had to get food, so ended up staying out till past 2 am, and this on a "school night." So much for getting in work early tomorrow.

Monday, August 08, 2005

It Was Kinda Weird

So I just got home from my audition for Chevy. I played a construction guy and there were three other guys in the room with me. The casting guy says, "This is real easy. I'm just gonna ask you a question and I just want you to give me a short 5-second answer."

Sounds easy enough. He asks the first guy what he's gonna do in a heated situation: Start a fight or talk his way out of it. "Talk my way out of it. Of course!"

Then he turns to me. What did you do on Saturday?

I said, "Saturday? I went to a BBQ with my improv group and for some reason, this guy sits on my lap and gives me this wet ear kiss. It was kinda weird..."

The three guys around me start to shuffle in their feet. The casting guy turns to his co-worker and says, "I think you shoulda went to that BBQ." The audition continues with two more questions to the other two guys, and then we're done.

On the way out, I say to the other guys, "Hope I didn't weird you out with that story." They didn't say much.

So I'm driving home and start to do what every actor does: replay the audition over in my head. At first, I'm kinda troubled by what I said. I mean, that's kind of an odd thing to say in a Chevy audition for four construction workers.

But then I start to think about some of Chevy's commercials and there's that one really popular one with the guy singing a country tune in a truck with his buddies, but the song lyrics are from the perspective of a woman. "I feel like a woman. Whoo!" So the other guys are weirded out by it.

And then I start to think that what I had said couldn't have been scripted much better. And that the reaction on the other guys' faces must've been priceless. So I probably helped the casting guy out by getting a reaction he may have been looking for.

And then I'm driving home, thinking that if I didn't actually go to a BBQ last weekend with my improv class, that guy wouldn't have sat on my lap and given me a wet ear kiss.

Summer Slumber

Apparently, the summer is a very slow time for commercials and whatnot. Today, I'm having my first commercial audition in about a month. This one's for Chevy and I'm going in as a manly construction worker. Simple enough, except I just got this short haircut and I look about 10 years younger than usual. Hopefully, by the time of my audition, I will have grown some shadow on my face.

Of course, I didn't get this call until I had already gotten to work, so I'm not exactly dressed as a construction worker. Gee, I hope they watch a lot of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

No Bahamas

I didn't get cast as an extra for the Pirates of the Caribbean film. Well, actually, I didn't even go to the open call. =D My friend called and gave me a head's up on the whole scene at around 10 am that day, an hour before they were to officially start. He said he was told that if you were Asian, you would most certainly have to shave off the front part of your scalp.

Yeah, I know that sounds extreme, but it's not that bad. It's a "coolie" thing, as in the coolies that worked on the railroads in the late 1800s to early 1900s. They basically had this long pony tail that extended from where their head was shaved back about a third to halfway from their forehead.

You know, it might even become a fashion trend after this movie comes out. Who knows? Well, it probably won't. And I thought about that for about, oh, 15 seconds. I asked my friend the same question.

"Are you going to do it?"
"I don't think so."
"I didn't think so. I don't think I will either."
"Okay, see you around."
"Bye ... and thanks for the head's up."

So, no trip to the Bahamas. But you know, I would've just shaved my head after the movie ended. That's not so bad. I actually want to try that anyway. But, oh well, a lot was decided in those 15 seconds. But see? Fate can be determined in a very short amount of time. I could've went. They could've taken a picture, then decided they wanted me to have a few lines. Then those lines could've became a very important scene. And then I could've asked Mr. Depp why he didn't sing "Pure Imagination," or some updated version of it, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Gosh, my life could've been so much different, if only I had decided that I would shave my scalp.

Okay, time to eat my organic vanilla-flavored yogurt with apples and granola now.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Facial Hair Pt. II

It's day two of trying to, once again, grow facial hair and for some reason it doesn't seem as long or thick as before. Granted, I decided that I would just grow it all out, instead of shaving the sides and outlining the growth around my mouth. So, maybe that's why.

The girl I "pinky promised" with says she doesn't remember doing it. See? We didn't sign or copy it, so there's no proof. That's why she doesn't remember. I also think she was pretty drunk that night.

On Saturday night, I'm going to an '80s-theme party and I was thinking of going as Don Johnson ala Miami Vice. Only thing is, the timing's not right. I'm going to shave my cheeks on Saturday morning. But on Saturday night, I need the 5 o'clock shadow. What to do? WHAT TO DO???

I'll let you in on a secret. To gain the ultimate 5 o'clock shadow, you use a blade, not an electric razor, and you only shave with the direction of the hair growth, not against it. So, I'll do a down swipe of my cheeks on Saturday morning, keeping the goatee and mustache area. Then after the audition, I'll do a down swipe of that area. By evening, I should have pretty good growth.

See? All those evenings watching Miami Vice wasn't completely wasted after all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Pinky Promise

Yesterday, I wrote how I was growing out some facial hair. Well, today, I shaved it off. Why? Because I got a call from my print agent for an audition today, which, unsurprisingly, does not call for facial hair.

The thing is, I made a pinky promise with a friend to not shave it. Or did I?

First things first. A pinky promise is one of those promises you make while locking pinkies. Some people also "sign" them by scratching each other's palms with the forefinger, followed by a swipe along the palm with the fingers in order to "copy" it. I didn't do all that other stuff, so, you see, there's no proof of the promise. And yes, I breached the agreement.

But not entirely. You see, after today, I'm growing it all back for the Saturday open casting.

Now this would all be fine, except for the fact that I will most likely see the person I made the pinky promise with tonight, and I believe she will not be pleased.

But here's how I look at it. Today's audition is for Nokia. Now for those who remember my earlier posts, I've had several encounters with the Nokia folks, mostly being put on avail for crazy money. This one is for $2000. Not bad. Minus the commission, it's still $1600 to me. But then again, they didn't exactly want me before. So will three times be a charm? We'll see....

I drank so much last night, then didn't get much sleep. I woke up with a slight hangover, but it wasn't something coffee and a shower couldn't fix. Today, I don't look half bad. My hair's looking presentable. And I'm wearing my current favorite shirt and jeans. I'm doing okay, despite the circumstances.

Anyway, the audition is not for another 4 hours. I've gotten uglier in less time.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

All-Expense-Paid Trip to the Bahamas

The Pirates of the Caribbean movie folks have been trying to get a bunch of Asian actors and extras for their next movie. This has been going on for a while now, ever since last December when they did a major call. In May, they did an open casting for actors, which I didn't go to.

Well, on July 30, they'll be looking for more extras of the pirate and townspeople variety. They want character types, of course, which means the uglier the better. So, I've decided that I could use an all-expense-paid trip to the Bahamas -- apparently, that's where they're shooting -- so I'm now growing facial hair around my mouth. I know that this would be a good time to utilize the photo image capabilities of this blog, but I don't have a bluetooth connection right now. So, no photo.

Meanwhile, people at work are wondering why the sudden change in appearance. But they haven't asked, so I'm not telling. Actually, I'd like to keep it for a while. Guess I'm growing tired of seeing the same ol' face in the mirror all these years and could use a break.

The funny thing is, I've noticed that much of my facial hair is of the "salt" type, as in salt and pepper. Man, am I getting old or what!

It's kinda fun playing make-believe at such a ripe old age. I think Johnny Depp has it pretty good. Speaking of whom, I just saw Willie Wonka, er, uh, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The story was pretty true to the original except for some tweaks here and there. And, of course, no Gene Wilder. Just Depp in an almost Chaplin-esque turn as Willie Wonka.

People have been comparing Depp's version to Michael Jackson, but really, there's no resemblance except for the skin color.

The one thing I have to say that I'm disappointed with is that Willie didn't sing some updated version of "Pure Imagination," which I think was one of the major pivotal character revealers in the original. And it's a great sentimental tune as well. Actually, I don't remember Depp singing at all, but I could be wrong since I did go to the bathroom about halfway through it. (I had this idea to drink 2 beers before the movie for a more "tipsier" experience. Unfortunately, I have a small bladder.)

Anyway, I hope to have the luxury of being able to discuss this movie with Mr. Depp, if I get the chance to vacation, er, uh, work as an extra in the Bahamas. Of course, as an extra, you get the farm animal treatment. Yup, they literally herd you around, from costume changes to the waiting area (often a folding chair outside) to eating from the dining car.

I've been an extra on several occasions and I decided I was through with it a long time ago. It's good to do those in the beginning, but it's better not to make a habit or practice of it, unless you're doing it for financial reasons. Or, in my case, to take a cheap vacation.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Have You Ever

Have you ever felt like you had no control over the next word you were about to say? Like you were a puppet on a string and the strings were just cut. Or being plugged into the Matrix and then being unplugged all of a sudden.

Actually, for me, it's similar to being stoned and not having any control over what you might possibly say. Well, that's what happened in the course of the performance yesterday as the warm-up act for Cold Tofu's regular gig. Our class did a few exercises for the audience and, right now, I have absolutely no recollection of what happened. Ten minutes are a complete mystery to me. But I do know this: people seemed to love it. And they told me so after the show.

Now, I'm not so gullible and starving for praise that I'm looking for any scrap that might come my way. But yesterday really gave me a sense of the mind of the improv artist: Complete trust in the moment. And you're so busy being creative that you have no time to be worried or nervous.

I just hope I don't lose my marbles completely. Because that's what it started to feel like.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Creeps

We just had our last class of the Cold Tofu improv level 2 workshop yesterday. I wasn't feeling very grounded because I had a big cup of coffee and, frankly, I was just a little too pumped with caffeine.

Regardless of that, I realized yesterday that I'm really creeped out by someone in the class. I actually wrote about him before but had to edit the comments out because I inadvertently forwarded my blog address to someone in the class. Well, after two workshops with him, things haven't really changed, especially my contempt for him.

In the beginning, he did some friendly role-playing, which is basically a psychology term for playing out your feelings in a situation. He's tested out his gay tendencies and his hatred toward women in class on many an occasion. First of all, I don't think it's a bad thing to have these issues. I think it's a bad thing to discover these issues and work them out in an improv class. After all, we're all paying customers here. Why should my money be spent on helping you with therapy? You should actually see a therapist for that.

My instincts tell me that this guy has a weird sort of crush on me. Hey, it's not the first time a gay guy has had eyes for me. But this guy, like I said, gives me the creeps. To be near him makes my skin crawl.

Yesterday, I had a talk with one of the instructors about this. He cut me short and said we'd better talk about it later. But I basically said I wasn't so sure about continuing on to level 3 of the workshops. He wants me to reconsider for a couple reasons: One, people who stop tend to lose momentum and their learning curve takes a dive. The other reason is that, maybe, I need to work this out for myself. And maybe it's me who has the issues. Right?? Anything's possible.

Truthfully, this guy makes me uncomfortable in every situation: in class, doing improv exercises together, and on stage in front of an audience. He's sort of unpredictable, but not in an entertaining improvvy sort of way. He's unpredictable in a deep-seeded (seated?), issues-oriented, need to express himself sort of way. I don't want to work on issues. I want to be a better improv artist or actor. Period.

Lately, I've had discussions with people on the subject of helping others. Sure, it's one thing to help people you get along with. But it's quite another to associate with people you couldn't care less about. To truly grow, I think I need to work with people of different energies, intellects, and stages in life and spirit.

That is, if I really want to grow.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Just Realized

You know, I just realized I enjoy a good bout of criticism. Must've been Mom and Dad's upbringing.

Again, explains my sadistic tendencies.

Spaghetti with Tofu

Tonight, my improv class is scheduled to perform in a variety show/fundraiser for the Nisei Week 2004 Queen's Court called "That Spaghetti Show." In a nutshell, it's a spaghetti dinner with a '70s theme, plus a variety show featuring some new and burgeoning talent from the greater Japanese American community. There's no main act, but our class is featured toward the end of the show, which makes it seem like we are the main act.

Next weekend, Cold Tofu does its regular monthly show and our class will be the warm-up act, just like we ought to be. ;)

Last week's class was pretty fun. We did this thing where each person in the scene had an AUDIENCE-SELECTED idiosyncracy or tic that happens when another specific person in the scene does a particular PERSONAL idiosyncracy. So, they had me beat my chest like King Kong every time one guy touched his hands.

This guy usually touches his hands all the time, but for some reason, he didn't do it all through the scene. But the purpose of the improv is to bait them to do the thing that makes you do your thing. That's where the improv comes in. We did a set-up scene of being in an election campaign office. So, you have two things going on at once: the tic you're supposed to do and to help progress the scene. The scene culminates when everyone knows each other's tic. It's a total kick to do and hilarious to watch, since it isn't dependent so much on dialogue.

We'll be doing that skit tonight and it should be a lot of fun for the audience members.

We had evaluations during the last class. As always, this is a difficult thing to go through. They start off with your strengths, then tell you what you need to work on, then bookend it with an overall assessment, usually positive. I was told this: You don't think you're funny but you really are.

I'm not sure what that means exactly. But sometimes I do find myself in an exercise not knowing where it will go or being frustrated because it just isn't funny. He said that is when it actually gets funnier, because I'm caught with my pants down and it's interesting to see how I'm going to pull my pants back up. Ah, now that's improv. I get it.

Another thing he says is that I tend to think a lot and that it's noticeable. I didn't know that was the case so I asked him, "Can you really tell when I'm thinking?" He said that if I wanted, he would throw an eraser (we do our class in an actual classroom) at me every time he catches me thinking. I'm sure that would help, but it does seem a little like "Japanese volleyball coaching." (Not sure if you'll get that one.)

My instructor said my pauses were hard to describe but he said they were noticeable. So I said, "Like a truck?" One person in the class laughed at that. He was a theatre person and that alludes to "a pause so long you can drive a semi-truck through it." It's an old theatre saying.

Interestingly enough, when I said, "Like a truck?" I didn't put the brakes on. I just said it whether anyone was able to understand it or not. One person did and it was enough to show the class that I wasn't just saying things pulled out of my ass. But that's the point, I suppose. It shouldn't matter if anyone understands what I say. I should just say it.

I think I've made a practice all my life of censoring what I say. Of course, I don't censor everything and sometimes I end up saying some inappropriate things. But really, who the frick cares, huh? In one minute, no one remembers anything you've said.

What you write, however, is another matter. That lives on as history in the blogosphere of life.

What you do -- well, that's another matter entirely. Sometimes your actions suck. What do you do then? Regret? I've always believed in this: Do or don't do. And don't have any regrets about what you do. It can be difficult though.

Tonight, I hope not to regret any actions or things I say. But if I do, you can be sure I'll be writing about it here.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Decision

I didn't go to the cruise audition. I was leaning against it, but then I got a call from my commercial agent about another audition around the same time. Great excuse.

I know this seems sort of fatalistic, or noncommittal, or whatever other label you might use. But I did have a conversation about where I'm at these days.

I was chatting with someone who has just moved here from Korea and is looking for a job. She has about 3 months left before her visa runs out and she may have to move back home. Lately, she's found religion, and she likes to share her experiences with me, which I'm not against.

I asked her if God tells her what to think and what direction to take. She said, "Yes. God wants you to know."

So I said to her, "I'm okay with not knowing the answer to things. I'm okay with not knowing my next step." Which means, I don't always need to know where I'm going. Actually, while writing this, I almost phrased it, I don't need to go where I'm knowing. And really, that's what I meant.

I had to put things in terms of her religion, so I just said I have tremendous faith in God, and that things will work out fine, no matter how good or bad my next step is. But to be honest, I don't have tremendous faith in anything in most matters, except that whatever happens, I want it to happen. And my only test will be whether I can handle the thing that happens.

That doesn't mean I don't believe in God. I do. But I save God for the good stuff. Or the particularly difficult stuff.

For me, getting a job, booking a commercial, taking a trip to a far-off land, changing my place of residence, dealing with an injury, moving to another country -- these are all things I have faith that I can handle, and my challenge is to see how well I handle it.

Sometimes I don't handle things so well. Fortunately, I learn a lot from those experiences. And hopefully, I can face future similar challenges much better.

But when it came to the cruise audition, I actually didn't want to cancel it. I wanted to go and let fate decide whether I would book it or not. It's the whole "not knowing is better than knowing" sort of thing.

But then fate -- or, simply, my commercial agent and an audition -- stepped in and changed it for me. I ended up having to cancel the cruise audition, due to unforeseen circumstances. Which is fine with me. Because that's where I'm at.

----------------

Had my improv class yesterday and tried out the one character I was saving up. Apparently, some other folks think I'm dead on with it, so I think I'll begin using it more in my improvs. By the way, it's my birthday today. I just turned 40.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

What the Hey?

Um, so a few hours ago, I wrote how I'd never do stock photos for a cruise line. Well, just now, I got a call from my print agent to audition for -- I'll give you one guess -- a cruise line photo shoot.

After looking through all the brochures at work, I could only guess that the models had to actually go on a cruise. But that was just my guess. Turns out, that's exactly right. The photo shoot would take place on a 5-day Alaskan cruise.

So here's where it gets complicated. The cruise line is one that I don't freelance for. That's not so bad, I suppose, but what if someone in the marketing group happens to recognize me? Do I just say it's that "other guy" who's in my "category"?

But that's not all. Turns out, this thing pays $800 a day, for 5 days. One of those days would be working for my agent. $4000 X 20% = $800. So, a net of $3200 to me, if I book the thing. But, of course, I'd get a free Alaskan cruise. And from what I hear (my proofing colleague just took one and she says it was fantastic), it's a pretty good cruise!

I also read that Alaskan cruises are becoming all the rage now. Why? Because of the melting glaciers, that's why. Cruise lines aren't exactly marketing it that way, but people do believe that global warming will soon melt Alaska's great glaciers down to an ice cube.

So, I'd get an amazing cruise, plus make some money on it as well. And, of course, the food ain't too shabby on those things. Oh, one more thing. It's almost impossible to take a cruise by yourself -- single. You end up paying for a double, if you go solo. So, this is a rare opportunity to take a cruise, mingle with some single hot babes, and get paid at the same time!

I told my agent my dilemma. She said it would be up to me, since they don't have any conflicts with it. The audition is at 4pm tomorrow, all the way in Silver Lake again. Bad time. I've been wanting to take a long trip this autumn and $3200 would be awfully sweet to travel with.

Oh, there's one more thing. I'd have to take 5 days off from work, at a cruise line's marketing department, to take a cruise with a competitor, so I can be a part of their marketing brochures. Boy, this has been one weird day.

Weird

I had a weird melding of my careers this morning. Had to proof four ads for SBC with me in the ad. I don't know if other people are similar, but I actually can look at myself as if I'm another person. I know, that sounds like some kind of schizoid thing but it really isn't as crazy as it sounds. I look at myself, make some critiques about the hair, the smile, the clothes, the height -- all without taking it personally. Then again, that is sort of crazy.

If you're in Seattle, you have to check out the latest Sex in Seattle production. The ongoing series is in its 12th episode, which makes it the longest-running episodic stage series in Seattle history! I saw a show not too long ago and it was really well executed. (In fact, it's better than most of the things I've seen in Hollywood's theatre community.) I think the greatest thing about doing a series like this is that you can come in, as an audience member, already having an idea of who the characters are. And as an actor, already knowing how to play a character. (Oh, I just found out that the last episode just ended its run on Saturday.)

Like I said, I'm working on character development now, so I guess I'm thinking of characters all the time. One of our assignments is to keep an eye on interesting people as we conduct our day-to-day lives. Apparently, that's how Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau was discovered. Someone saw this interesting character operating an elevator and called Sellers to go check him out.

I saw a movie recently with Sellers and it had to do with a Hollywood party. In fact, I think it's called "The Party." Sellers plays a stereotypical man from India, accent, brown skin and all. It's the longest 2 hours I've had to endure in a while. Fortunately, Sellers' character wins in the end, despite being one of the sorriest people in the movie.

I'm proofing some brochures right now and there's this Asian guy in a few of the pictures. I've actually seen him at several auditions. He's apparently in the same "category" as me so he's technically my competition.

Well...you'd never catch ME doing stock photos for a stupid cruise brochure. No way....

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Yesterday's Class

Last week, my improv class was given the assignment of coming up with 5 distinct characters for introducing into the class during our exercises. Since I wasn't in class last week, I learned about the assignment via email and it took me, maybe, a day or two to come up with my 5.

First of all, you have to understand that I'm not someone who normally does impersonations of people. I'm someone who normally WATCHES other people do impersonations of people. But I have to admit that I've had about 5 characters inside my head for many years, starting from when I was in college, working at one of the campus radio stations.

I had this pseudonym named DeMar Williams and it was a chance for me to become, via radio, someone else, namely a black man with a deep, sexy voice. Well, DeMar got reintroduced yesterday in class when I was called upon to introduce a character.

It's fun to watch other people transform into someone completely different, especially when it seems natural. I hate forced impersonations and characterizations. But when someone slips into character, everything seems to change, from their mannerisms to their speech patterns and even their vocabulary.

But, oddly enough, I seemed to do this sort of thing pretty well. So well that I decided to try another character who I like to call Jun Cha, a Korean car salesman. Actually, his name is Dennis and he works for the Infinity dealer in Redmond, Washington. But this guy's characteristics struck me so strongly, it was hard for me NOT to remember him.

The one thing that prepares me for this character is his walk, which is sort of a shuffle, like when you're wearing slippers. In fact, he WAS wearing slippers in the dealer showroom when he was selling my friend a car. But the sound of his feet and his posture immediately gives me enough to slip into his voice and demeanor.

It took me a few sentences to get into his rhythm, but once I did, the rest was easy. And let me tell you, doing a Korean characterization is not easy, especially when there is a Korean in your improv class.

I did a redneck named Chuck, named after my old college roommate who was a total ladies' man, not a redneck. But he had an unmistakable twang in his voice, which also comes easy to me. I can't seem to get his mannerisms right though.

I also did an impersonation of a friend of mine, whom I won't name. He is actually an actor originally from Seattle. That should be plenty of clues for anyone who might know him. Don't know if I'm dead-on, but it was recognizable enough for one of my instructors, who also knows him.

My last character is one I'm saving up for the final class. It's actually my strongest, but it's based on a famous person, which is something we were supposed to avoid. Fortunately, I can just use a generic title for him, and if anyone guesses who he is, I'll just evade admitting it. I've been told that I am dead-on, but that's when I am quoting from his movies or interviews. We'll see how it goes when I make up words for him to say.

Had a pretty slow week, audition-wise, but that's okay with me. I'm a little exhausted these days. Frankly, I wouldn't mind a break from auditions for a while. Just don't want to say that too loudly. It might come true.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The New Proofer

The other proofer at work just got married and is taking 2 weeks off. So, I had to train another proofer who, to my surprise, is a total pro. In fact, she's probably got me licked in this stuff. She's a trained copy editor and copywriter as well. I sometimes do the writing but my copy editing sort or sucks. Funny thing is, I'm really good at editing, which I think is a bit different.

Anyway, I want this new proofer to stay. And it turns out that she also auditions for voice-over work. Today, in fact, she said she needed to go to an audition at noon. I said, "No, you don't. You need to take a lunch at noon." She asked why I said that. I told her the folks in the office don't understand when you have a life outside the office. So, don't mention anything about your auditioning. She didn't understand how they could be so demanding on a temp worker, but thanked me nevertheless.

This new proofer is a bit older than me. (At least she looks that way. Can't tell about white folks in California, can you?) And, I think, a bit wiser. She said that if you are a temp, you don't get certain benefits, so you must use the one thing you do have: time. She's taking a class to get certification to be a zookeeper. She said she used to do that in another city and enjoys it more than proofing. Gee, I wonder why.

Still, she's had long-term assignments such as Amgen. I've been offered work at Amgen. Only thing is, they're located in Thousand Oaks. That's like a thousand minutes away from Hollywood. Too far.

Anyway, I like her. She reminds me of why I do this freelancing stuff -- and why I act and pursue other things. Because there are some things more important than a steady paycheck. But one thing in particular.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Missed Class

Missed my improv class last night. A friend's wife just passed away due to an awful battle with stomach cancer and I was going to help him grieve. Stomach cancer has got to be one of the worst cancers to get. Well, I'm sure they're all bad.

So, I was supposed to join this friend and another buddy yesterday for a burger and a beer at my favorite watering hole. But then he had to go pick someone up from LAX. I was still at work when I found this out, so I guess I could've gone to class after all. Problem is, I already told the instructors I wouldn't be coming due to the above circumstances.

This might be an Asian thing, but I just couldn't get myself to go to class. I don't normally make excuses to get out of class, so when I do, it's for a good reason. Well, anyway, I wouldn't go despite my buddy urging me to go to class.

I guess I felt it was like saying, "Hey guys, I'm helping my friend in his grieving process during a difficult time. I hope you understand by me not going to class tonight." And then I turn around and show up, it' s like saying, "Well, guess he wasn't so bad after all. Nevermind."

I just couldn't do it. The last time I saw my friend's wife was at a Chinese New Year party back in February. She was in good spirits. I gave her a hug and told her I was happy to see her. She smiled a lot that night. She turned 31 this year.

Monday, June 13, 2005

iMac Will Have to Wait

I just got released from my "avail" on that print job. I actually feel relieved about it, mostly because I want to save up any schedule conflicts for a bigger job. Still, a thousand bucks is a thousand bucks. Could've bought a new iMac to match the iPod mini I just got for my birthday.

I went to my 11:40 am audition for KFC today and, work permitting, I hope to get out of the office early to make my 5:50 pm. We'll see....

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Migration

I have two auditions scheduled for Monday, one at 11:40 am, the other at 5:50 pm. You know, I really don't understand why I'm getting so many auditions right now. This is very unusual for me. I usually average about one a week. Lately, it's been about 3 or 4 per week.

I shouldn't complain, since there are folks who would love to do that many per week. I don't know. I guess I'm weighing the fact that I have a paycheck coming in every week versus the POTENTIAL to have a paycheck coming in. I think I just enjoy a certain level of stability, particularly of the financial kind. To jeopardize that stability creates stress in my life.

I've heard that a lot of New York artists and actors have moved to Hollywood in the past two years. Apparently, New York has become a place more suitable for Wall Street types than creative ones. An article in the L.A. Weekly about publishers moving to the West Coast also said something to that effect. It's just too expensive to live there. And while it may be expensive to live here, it doesn't compare. I probably get twice as much space, not to mention 2 parking spaces, at my Hollywood apartment.

Anyway, if the talent seems to be moving west, I'm sure the projects getting cast are also moving west. And I have to assume that since the cost of living is lower here, the money paid to the talent is also lower than in New York. But this is just an assumption. Personally, if I had to pay $1800 for a tiny apartment in New York, I wouldn't be an actor or a model unless I was making a minimum of $2500 per job. As it is, most of my print jobs pay between $1000-$1800 each. But my rent is only $800, so I can get by on that.

Yesterday, while at the photo shoot, I met a model who used to live in my building. She's very pretty -- and very curvy for a petite frame -- and she said she had strange people out on the street harassing her whenever she left the apartment. Fortunately, I don't have that problem. She now lives in West L.A. for twice the rent. But she had to do it out of safety reasons. I just hope she's booking more jobs.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

More Print Work

Tomorrow, I have a photo shoot for an SBC print job. It's a "gimme" from one of my freelance clients, meaning I didn't have to audition for it. There's actually a trade-off because I wouldn't usually work for such low pay. But how can you turn down a job that's freely offered to you? I can't. Not right now, anyway.

The shoot is scheduled to take 3 hours and I made plans with my supervisor to take an "extended lunch break" during that time.

On Monday, I have a commercial audition but it's at a very difficult hour: 5:50pm. That's not easy for me. I may try to weasel in a different time.

I went to a print audition yesterday for what I think is an insurance company. There were hundreds of people there of different ages, ethnicities, genders. I was a little late in getting back to the office. Maybe 15 minutes late. Unfortunately, I have a supervisor who watches me like a hawk. Fortunately, however, I think she just enjoys razzing me. Must be the sadist in her. Guess we'd make a perfect match.

Anyway, I'm on avail for the print job, which shoots sometime next week, possibly on the weekend.

Last night's improv class was a big improvement over last week's. I decided to treat the class as if I were performing on stage in front of a large audience. And I think I let loose a little more than usual. It also helped that I happened to watch 5 back-to-back episodes of Whose Line Is It Anyway on the ABC Family channel. Watching that show really inspired me on how to use imaginary space and props. They have a way of "miming" activities that you instantly recognize. They're also good at doing character voices, which is something I need to develop.

Earlier today, I started thinking about bringing a tape recorder to tape my auditions. Not sure what this would help with, but I think I could learn something from studying what I say during those sessions.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Callback Ratios

A while ago, I mentioned that I kept in mind a "booking ratio" for the number of auditions I have versus the number I book. I mentioned that, print-wise, that ratio was unusually high. However, commercially, my ratio had been going down since joining SAG.

Now it seems I have to lower my standards. I'm starting to count callbacks and avails versus number of auditions. Actually, this year, it's all I CAN count. I am zero percent right now, booking-wise.

But I think there is something I've learned from all the auditions I've done this year: I am getting better. I'm just not as lucky anymore.

I think that's an important transition for anyone in a difficult field. It's good to make a distinction between your level of work and whether that level had anything to do with getting hired. A long time ago, I depended on some degree of luck to get me proofing and editing jobs. These days, it's my skills, period. (But I'll take luck if it's there.)

Speaking of proofing jobs, I'm having a helluva time working with this other proofer at my contract job. I can be awfully ugly in a confrontation, and sometimes I don't speak in the most tactful way. But yesterday, I had no choice but to confront this other proofer. It didn't go very well, but I made my point. If the point doesn't sink in, however, I'll just suggest getting a replacement for this person. Since I really don't like the assignment, it seems an easy solution to just let them replace me. Unfortunately, even my agent doesn't want to do that. And yes, I already asked my agent about it.

I had a phone interview for a copywriting position the other day. It was interesting. The HR person wanted to know all about my experience, both in life and in work. We talked a while about different things: religion, culture, tolerance, fortune-telling. Fortune-telling, you ask? Well, yeah. The copywriting job was for a psychic hotline service.

And it looks like my newest freelance client will start sending me assignments this week. I also learned just yesterday that my current contract client also used to do work for my new client, which makes sense. But I wonder about the non-disclosure agreement they must've signed.

I have class tonight. I think I've hit a plateau in my learning curve. That means I need to really push myself if I'm going to improve. Tonight, I'm going to let loose. Free up all those inhibitions.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Today Was Kinda Nuts

I had a callback today scheduled for 3:05 for Gillette somewhere in Hollywood. This is the same gig I auditioned for right before my callback last week that caused major problems with my favorite casting director. Well, today I had similar circumstances.

Sometime this morning, I got a call from one of my agents about another callback for today. It seems I went out for this commercial about two weeks ago. That's a long time for a callback. I even forgot what I wore that day.

The problem was that this second callback was for 4:15, and it was in Santa Monica. Again, I have the Gillette audition in Hollywood, and another one an hour and fifteen minutes later across town.

When I got to the Gillette audition, there were about 30 guys in the room, all waiting to go in. I asked someone I recognized how long he'd been there. He said they hadn't even started seeing people for the role we were there for. There were still casting for a different role.

Now, even if I were to go in at my appointed time, it still would've been tough getting to the second callback on time. So, I called one of my agents, explained the situation, and he told me to stay with Gillette. The obvious reason is for the money. Gillette is a national spot. The other one was wildspot at best, cable at worst. What's the difference? Well, for cable, it can be pretty bad. You can probably just look forward to getting your reuse/holding fee and that's it.

But here's the other thing: there were probably over 70 guys at the callback. (More kept arriving. I saw an old friend from Seattle there and someone I hadn't seen in 10 years.) That's insane!

Luckily, I didn't have to make a choice in the matter. I was at the audition. I couldn't make the other one, and it wouldn't have paid much anyway. But damn, it's still a potential job. And there's a pretty good chance that I will never be called by that casting director again. Oh well...

I have a print audition on Monday. Damn, it never stops. It's so busy that I'm complaining about how busy it is. Just wish I could book one of these good ones. Then I'll have something to show for all this running around.

Yesterday's audition as the UPS man definitely wasn't for a commercial. I still don't know what it was for. There was no camera. Just the casting director and me, and we read some lines -- one time only. That was it. It was so quick I didn't have time to think about anything.

I don't know what's going on with me and this acting thing. I honestly thought I would be hanging my hat up sometime soon. But alas, my career seems to be getting a second wind. I really can't tell if I'm getting better or just getting luckier. But three callbacks in a row is a pretty good telling sign . . . that I seem to be driving around town a whole lot more.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Don't Know What to Think

So, I'm kinda bummed about the commercial. I didn't get a confirmation call, so there's no point in keeping any hopes up. Usually, though, they do let you know that you're no longer "on avail." So, I'm not sure why they didn't say anything this time. Probably too busy.

Actually, I've been a little too busy myself to even worry about it. I would've had to do a lot of juggling of my schedule. But on Tuesday I decided something. The next time that Osugi lady at work gives me a little trouble, I'm going to leave the office and never come back. Actually, on Wednesday morning, she did try to give me some flack. I don't know what was in me, but I basically snapped at her and told her I was too busy for her nonsense. She got the message loud and clear.

So, maybe the next time she tries to give me some flack, I'm just going to look her straight in the eye and say, "What the hell did you say?" And just look like I'm ready to bite her head off.

On Thursday morning, I have an early print audition at 9 am for Mercedes. And then at 3:45 (a very bad time to drive to an audition), I have to be on Sunset Blvd. for another audition.

Now, I'm not so sure about this one. My agent said it's for UPS. But then I looked it up on Showfax to get the sides for the audition. (Sides, by the way, means the script you need to have for the audition. Showfax is one of the pay services where you can download them for a couple of bucks.) It wasn't under UPS or commercials either. So then I just did a general search. It turns out it's the PART of a UPS man for a FEATURE. I won't name the project because I don't know a thing about it. But I did google it and found there's a British TV show under the same name on the BBC. So, this just might be for a TV show, not a film.

Anyway, I'm tempted to call my agent and ask her, "What the hell?" You see, she's a commercial agent, not a theatrical agent. Oh well, I'll see if I can make the audition. It's not too far from work. I think I can manage it.

Friday, May 27, 2005

It's 4:30 PM Damnit!

So, my agent said he would probably know whether it's a done deal by Friday afternoon. It's now Friday afternoon and still no phone call. I'm getting a familiar crunchy feeling inside my bones that makes me think it's not going to happen. There's no gut instinct to it. It's just a feeling that primes me for any sort of news, good or bad. Or maybe it's in my nerves or blood vessels, just going into pre-shock mode. I don't know, but I don't like it.

My agent said they assured him they wouldn't drag their decision into the weekend, knowing how excruciating this would be to all of the 30 callback hopefuls that were brought in for second auditions. I'm hoping there weren't too many Asian guys there. I didn't see any. I didn't even see any Asian kids or women at the callback. Thirty callbacks probably include kids, I'm thinking, so just how many Asian guys could they possibly bring in, damnit???!!

As you can see, having a relationship with an actor would be a heckuva ride. Fortunately, these sort of rollercoasters only come around every few months or so. At least I don't have long depression spells about the industry. That's why I do this blog. So I can get my angst out of my system and share it with you fine folks free of charge. I also don't want this stuff crawling into my article writing and other kinds of writing I may do for fun or profit.

It's now 4:39. Yes, I will do this for the remainder of the afternoon, counting the minutes, watching my cell phone, checking it to see if it still works or if I have a signal. My agent also likes to page me so I'll be checking that as well. Hell, I might as well even call my home machine for, uh, well, for kicks I guess.

In the last year or two, I've depended less on luck than on good days and bad days. Some days are great, some are bad, some in between. I'll find out soon enough if this'll be a good one. I still have an hour or so to go before most offices close for the day.

Actually, this is sort of depressing me now. My last commercial avail didn't happen. Hmm, maybe there WAS another Asian guy....

My Rib

Every once in a while, a rib somewhere along my back gets tweaked and causes major pain and suffering. And, sometimes, breathing trouble. That's how I started my day today.

Is it my neuroses embodied? Yes, I do believe so. It fricking sucks because I'm having enough trouble concentrating on my work today. I don't need the additional distraction. Boy, I need a live-in chiropractor.

The only thing about it is I get to show my co-workers the agony I suffer from this. Then, when I have a schedule conflict, I can call and tell them my back is out and I need to see the chiro.

A long time ago, I used to lie to my mom this way. I don't even remember what I used to lie about, but the really good ones took some time to work in. Maybe I didn't want to go to school one day. Maybe I had a bad grade on a test. Maybe I did something bad and I needed to cover up for it.

I think that little girls are bred to manipulate their fathers and, thus, their men. Well, I guess I got some of that too. I was, after all, the baby of the family. When you got all that good attention coming at you, why let it go to waste?

When I was at my prime, I could charm a homeless guy out of a dollar. Now days, however, I don't have the energy to do these things. It's not that I prefer to be more straight-forward in my approach. I just lack that creative energy to come up with a good con.

Unless, of course, something big is on the line. Then I might find the energy somewhere....
;)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Get This...

I'm on avail for a national!! Oh-oh, I guess that means the neuroses will start to set in again....

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Crazy Day So Far

Today, I had a callback for a commercial at 12:50 pm. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get there until about 1:20 pm. Boy, were some people pissed....

This morning, I woke up, a little more tired than usual. I had a hard time sleeping last night, probably due to the anxiety of the callback. I haven't had a callback in a while, so I must've been thinking about it all night long. I hate it because I know why I'm so anxious. The bigger the job, the more stress I suffer. This job just might be a national, and as I've mentioned, I've never done one before.

I got to work on time, told my supervisor when I wanted to take lunch. Everything was going fine. Then one of my agents calls and says he has a "same-day audition" for me, meaning he wants me to hit something else today. I told him I had a callback scheduled for around the same time. Silence. Okay, I'll try and make it before my callback. Click.

So my day was going fine, and then I had to make a stupid decision. This one was at Castaways, which is near Beverly Hills. My callback is in Santa Monica. Not Beverly Hills. Now why did I think I'd be able to make both, especially when the callback is worth, like, 20 auditions? STUPID with a capital F!

At 1:06, my agent calls. But this is the actual agent, the one who calls when I book something. He's not very happy, but he doesn't say so. He's the coolest cat I know. He never has to say he's upset. Just the fact he's calling is enough. And he knows I know that.

The casting director is someone whom I've actually gone to many castings for. She's great. One of my favorites, if not most favorite. She always says hello to me and calls me by my first name, too. Perhaps it's because most of the things I've done for her are non-union jobs. She likes people she can depend on for her low-paying stuff. After I turned union, I didn't hear from her too often. Just an occasional print job call. That's it.

My agent says she'll hold the client -- just for me! And I thank her over and over for it. I make sure she knows I'm appreciative. When I get home, I'm sending a thank you note, regardless of if I book the job or not.

I got back to work 45 minutes later than I'm supposed to. I get another reaming. Fortunately, Osugi isn't in the office this week. It's just my immediate supervisor, and I think she has a thing for me. She's yelling at me not because there's work to do, but because the other proofer needs to go to lunch.

Oh, have to continue this after my improv class tonight. Off I go again, into the L.A. traffic....

Cool Site

I was doing some random googling (a small plug for the owners of this blog service) and came across an interesting site:
http://angryasianman.com/angry.html

This guy chronicles (is that the right word?) everything that sort of pertains to his interests as an Asian American man who feels underrepresented in the American media and entertainment world. I think his perspectives are pretty mature, yet entertaining at the same time.

Apparently, he's been doing this site since January of 2001. That's a lot of chronicling. (Man, I still don't know if that's the right word for it. And I call myself a word man. Whatever.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Masochism Revisited

I do realize that there will be some unsuspecting S&M folks somehow being forwarded to this page. Unfortunately, this site is not what they'll be looking for.

On the way to work today (and yes, I'm doing this during office hours), I started thinking about a girl whom I sort of dated/sort of hooked-up with last summer. She was a young thing, about 25. Amazing skin. But alas, it was just a "hook up" and nothing more. But I became somewhat obsessed with why it didn't work out.

Today, I think I figured it out. I'm attracted to women who absolutely hate what I do and the way I live. Yet I couldn't get it out of my head that there was something about what I did to discourage this girl away from me.

Almost without exception, I've gone out with women who are initially fascinated by what I do for a living, only to decide at a later date that I should quit whatever I am doing completely or else they will leave me. There was one girl who was completely enraptured with whatever I did, but that's another story. Or maybe not. As a masochist, I don't want someone who loves and adores me. I want someone who hates me. Or will come to hate me.

This girl (from last summer) told me everything from the get-go. She hated artists, actors, etc. She wanted a stable living, but also the ability to do some adventurous stuff, like start a business, work for a clothing designer, etc. Actors usually work in restaurants, bars, or whatever other work they can get their hands on. We were doomed from the start.

What's worse is I'm a multi-hyphened artist. I'm also a writer, which is not stable either. Essentially, this girl wanted a doer, not a dreamer.

Regardless of the idea that I've always considered myself a doer, she already wrote me off as a dreamer. I can't blame someone for doing this. I'd probably do it myself, if I was in her position. Or mine, for that matter.

I've been single/unattached for about 18 months now. This is one of the longest stretches I've had since moving to Hollywood. And I've decided it's going to get even longer. . . until I can figure out how I can start being attracted to someone who doesn't hate me, or eventually come to hate me.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

I Must Be Whack

I'm a masochist. I've known this for years. It's probably why I love the whole notion of the book "Fight Club." I don't feel alive until I feel pain.

Struggling to do something is sort of an extension of that pain. When things come too easily, it just doesn't feel real. It doesn't feel like it has any value.

Sure, I'm probably rationalizing some frustrations in my life right now. For instance, I'm having a helluva time getting a literary agent. Getting a literary agent is one of those really difficult things to achieve. Ask any writer. But I prefer to ask an engineer. I'll explain later.

A couple summers ago, I went with a group of friends to watch the second installment of the Matrix series on opening night. Afterward, we went to a friend's place to discuss the movie over brandy and cigars. There was a bicycle lock on the floor and I proceeded to try to figure out the combination. But there were several doubters in the room: a CFO, a banker, a financier, and a mathematician/engineer. They all said it would be impossible to guess the combination. Or rather, it would take several hours, if not days, to figure it out.

But after watching the Matrix, I simply replied: "There is no spoon."

People who know probabilities would never attempt to do something as ridiculous as figuring out the combination to a lock. It would be a waste of time. A big waste of probable time.

But then if you ask an engineer about writing a book, s/he might say, "Just write it." How do you publish a book? "Just publish it." How do become an actor? "Just study, then act." How do you get an agent? "Just get one."

They don't know the probabilities, so they think it's just a matter of cause and effect. Do x, then y happens.

I love the thought processes of the engineer because it is relatively predictable and straightforward. How do you become an engineer? You study, get good grades in science and math, then you get a job as an engineer. And thus, there should be no difference with the arts. You study hard, then you do.

So, here I am, reading books about how to get a literary agent. How to write the perfect proposal. How to send the perfect query. How not to make a mistake, etc. But I know it's not brain surgery. I've already written the book. How do I get an agent? Just get an agent. It's really that simple. Probably easier than that damn lock I unlocked.

Oh, I forgot to mention it. I unlocked that lock in a matter of 15 minutes or less. Everyone in the room was stunned.

It goes without saying that there is a big difference in thought between artists and engineers, especially when it comes to the arts.

But every day, I struggle with it. I struggle with the hows, the whens, the how oftens. I just need to convince myself that it's not so fricking hard. Just get the agent.

Monday, May 16, 2005

You Forget What It's Like

Recently, I've been pushing this guy in my class to be more proactive with his career. But like most of us who have barely gotten our feet wet in this industry, it's a scary thing. Probably one of the scariest.

I know many people who are gung-ho to be an actor and after one year they are ready to go home and cry to mommy. Hey, I was too! In fact, every time I go out and do a lousy audition, I feel like crying to mommy. Unfortunately, that's a little impossible for me.

Right now, I go to work, 9:30 in the morning. Wake up at 8, drink some coffee, get ready for the day.

Today at 12:30 I had a print audition all the way across town near Silverlake. But it felt fun getting in my car, driving up the 405 to the 101, getting off at Sunset, head west a mile, then drive up Vermont. I got my favorite music pumping and I'm getting dressed in the car.

Today, I had this epiphany. I feel very fortunate to be doing this kind of work. I have an agent. I do some occasional work. I even get paid for it. Man, that's a great experience not many can share.

The funny thing is, I don't even remember the transition from my previous life into this one. It was either very gradual or really abrupt. I just can't decide. But I do remember the struggle, trying to get an agent. Wondering if my headshots are any good. Wondering if I'm good-looking enough, tall enough, etc. After 6 months and no phone call, I got terribly discouraged. And that's when I tore my Achilles tendon while playing basketball.

Actually, what happened was the day before, I had been training with a man by the name of Jesse Glover. I don't want to explain who he is, but if you're curious enough to find out, you might do some research. Two days later, I was supposed to train with Taky Kimura. But the day in between -- that was the day I played basketball and tore my Achilles. All this took place in my hometown of Seatle, by the way. It ended up being a long and expensive vacation.

I agonized over the situation, mostly because I didn't have health insurance. Surgery is expensive. Just the anesthesiologist (sp?) cost hundreds of dollars per hour. But my brother suggested a surgeon who we often played basketball with. So I called him and he gave me his best price. What a guy. I saw him recently too and thanked him. I should send him a card and really thank him.

Anyway, while recovering on pain medication and hanging out on my dad's couch, I got a call on my cell phone. It was an 818 number. Turns out, they were a commercial agency and were finally going through some headshots and found mine in a stack. They wanted me to come in for an audition. I told them I was in Seattle, and, uh, oh, by the way, I'm on crutches. They said they would make a note of it.

Walking through an airport with your baggage while using crutches is a tremendous chore, so they make it easy for you. They get someone to either wheel you to the gate or they drive you there in one of those electric carts. But once you get off the plane, you're all on your own.

I borrowed my friend's car because my SUV has a manual transmission. The battery died on the way there, so I had to buy a new one. It was late summer, so I sweated through my shirt and pants. I hobbled up to the agent's door on my crutches, filled out some paperwork, then had my introduction to the head agent. She must've felt sorry for me, because she asked another agent to talk to me too. Then, after I left, I got a call for a follow-up interview. After that happened, they said they wanted to sign me. Imagine that. Someone actually wanted to sign me.

A week after I had signed, I got two more phone calls from different agents, all wanting to interview me. What?! I wait 6 months and nothing. Now, I got every agent in the world calling me. Well, not really. But it felt like that for a couple of days.

It's been over 5 years with my agency now. I'm not terribly successful. Never booked a national. Gotten close. But I make a few dollars for my agency and me. I guess it's enough to keep me on the roster. After three years with them, they asked if I had a print agent and I said no. So they signed me for that too. I think I make more money for them on print than commercials now. Go figure.

Tomorrow, I have a commercial audition in Santa Monica, not too far from where I work. It's at 2pm, lunchtime. I gotta play a daddy.

No, I wouldn't trade my life experience for much else. It's pretty cool what I do. Even if I don't book a whole lot of jobs. Sometimes it's just the experience that matters.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

All Just a Blur

I've been sort of burning the candle at both ends these days. Work during the day, play at night. Only problem is, it's been that way the whole week, starting on Monday. But on Tuesday, something happened. Yeah, I did the IBM reshoot. Went well, except the guy before me took way too long. The photog was gettin' nothin' from him, probably because all the model was doing was just mugging for the camera.

So here's a lesson on "not mugging for the camera."

One, if you have to hold a pose for longer than a second, it's no longer natural. Real life is captured in moments. You all remember the famous photo of Muhammad Ali with a menacing look holding his fist over (I think) Frazier while he lay on the mat? Apparently, that photo was one in a million. No one else in the entire sports photography world caught the same picture. The reason is because Ali didn't do the pose for longer than a tenth or a twentieth of a second. If you roll the videotape of the fight, you can pause it just after Ali knocked Frazier down and you might, with some luck, be able to pause it on the exact blip of that famous photograph.

Two, the eyes make the photo come alive. So make sure you're not hung over when doing the shoot. Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before. The one comment casting directors consistently make about headshots is this: "I can just tell if they have something by their eyes." And you think about it. What is it about that person who struck a chord with you? Their smile? Their boobs? Well, okay. But it was probably their eyes, and then their boobs.

So how do you make your eyes stand out? Closing your eyes for just a second before the shot is a great strategy that almost always works. That also is highly recommended for any chronic blinkers out there. Seriously, I'm not kidding. There are professional actors and models who blink like crazy right before the shot. It's like stage fright for the eye.

Three, think kenetic energy. This involves some physics. And while I'm no expert on the subject, what I mean by that is you got to make something that is standing still (ie., your body) look like it's moving 20 miles per hour, even though you're as still as a rock. Dancers do great photography sessions. How? Not by standing still and posing. They dance and jump and move. Photographers love dancers and they love subjects who know how to move like a dancer. And that's because every position has an aesthetic quality to it. A certain twist of the waist or neck or shoulders. The chin raised just a hair. Nose at a perfect angle to the lens. When you're aware of your body, you know how to position yourself.

And thus, some of the most successful actors I've ever met also were very photogenic. Or, they knew how to turn it on, even during a still photography session. And it goes quick. They can do a photo shoot in half an hour and every shot is usable. Ali was very photogenic. Sure, he did his share of mugging for the camera. But his energy was so kenetic, nothing ever seemed still to the camera. Once again, the camera captures life, moment by moment.

Four, just because it's a still camera, don't think it can't capture "motivation." When you feel large, you look large. When you feel small, you look small. When you feel pretty, that definitely translates through the lens. So understand this: The lens has the ability to capture your illusions. Yet at the same time, it will also capture your deepest insecurities. If you transmit a feeling, it leaves a physical yet invisible mark on the photograph. And remember Bruce Lee's advice: "Don't think. Feeeeeel."

A long time ago, a fortune teller walked into a store I was working at and told me I would do very well as a model. Do you know how loud and hard I laughed? Like I mentioned before, I'm not tall. My looks are definitely fading. My face gets more and more flawed each year. Yet, every year, I book jobs I feel I have no business booking. Go figure. I should probably give up acting and just stick to modeling.

After the IBM shoot, which I finished in about 40 minutes tops, I drove to my freelance job for a half day of work. I should've just called in sick, because I got yelled at by my agent, my supervisor and this old lady I'll just describe as "Osugi." (Read Musashi, if you're curious.) It was ugly, man. I thought I covered all my bases, too. Got a replacement. Told them I'd be late, probably by 1:30. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough. Had to get publicly reamed as well, ooga-booga style.

So there you have it. The life of a freelancer who moonlights as an actor/model. Oh, by the way, a girl in my improv class was in Boston over the last month and happened to walk past some buildings in the downtown area. From a half block away she saw something familiar. A face. My face. On the side of a window. There was another one on another side. My big ol' face, blown up, smiling with my mouth wide open. I don't know how long this poster has been up, but it's kinda freaky knowing your mug is plastered all over the windows of a business in a city many miles away. I remembered the photo shoot. Happened last year, right about this time. Took maybe an hour to shoot. All I did was act natural.

The guy at the IBM shoot who took a long time because he was mugging for the camera actually was a splitting image of a young Cassius Clay. I even told him so, and he says he gets that all the time. But there's a difference. A BIG difference.