Thursday, April 28, 2005

Gettin' Too Old for This Crap

On the way to the office this morning, I noticed my gas tank was down to about an eighth of a tank. When you're driving an SUV, that means it's time to get a fill-up. I don't know how much gas is in your neck of the woods, but I paid $2.51 a gallon for regular unleaded. And that's actually one of the lowest prices in town. Cost me about $35 to fill it. I don't know about you, but I don't make $35 an hour. Anyone making minimum wage these days has to work a lot of hours, just to fill their gas tank -- so they can go to work. Nope doesn't make sense at all.

So there I was today, sitting at my desk, proofreading my eyeballs off. It was a busy day, and by 3:15, my supervisor asked if I had taken lunch yet. I gave her the sad puppy-eyed look as best I could. So she told me I'd better go soon. So, around 4:10, I got in my car and jammed it to my audition across town.

Fortunately, I had filled my gas tank this morning, so I didn't have much to hold me back, except the afternoon L.A. traffic. But as luck would have it, the busiest freeway in the country, the I-10, wasn't so crowded. And I tore through the cars like you wouldn't believe. Then I came to LaBrea and scurried on up till I got to a turn-off so I could veer onto Highland. Then I took Highland to Fountain, took a left on Seward, and a right on Homewood where the audition was being held.

I knew by the two Asian guys outside in black kung fu pants and tank tops that I must be at the right place. So, I walked in the office and saw a bunch of 9-year-old kids sitting around. Oh, did I get there too late? Yeah, I was about 30 minutes late for my appointment, but from the looks of it, they were still seeing martial arts guys.

I signed in and from the sign-in sheet, I saw that the commercial was for a national spot. Hmm, not bad. Even better is that they're looking to cast more than one guy for this thing. Uh, more than one ASIAN guy, that is. And that's pretty cool.

There was some time to fill out my size card, take my polaroid, and even do some stretching of the legs. Everyone there was wearing some sort of athletic attire or martial arts outfit, so I looked a bit out of place in my DKNY stretch khakis and midnight blue polyester pullover. Nevertheless, I proceeded to do some stretches, some twists, and even some light punching and kicking, while standing about 3 feet away from a bunch of 9-year-old kids. None of them, however, ever made eye contact with me. That was a good sign, I decided. Yes, I was badass enough to fool a bunch of spoiled child actors.

If you've never been to an audition for a martial arts-related project, keep in mind that about a third of the martial artist's strategy is to psych his opponent out. If you can screw with your opponent's mind, any bit of a pause or hesitation can cost them dearly. And in this case, we're talking about a nice-paying job, so you bet your arse that I'm gonna play that game too.

Today, I played the ever-so-gentlemanly martial artist. I've always believed that that messes with people the most, because you show absolutely no fear by playing someone who is a gentleman in danger's eye. All the other Asian guys in the office looked at themselves in their athletic attire and wondered if they had worn the right clothes. Because I had been working my ass off all day, and then hauled ass to get to the audition, I didn't have time to worry about my clothes or anything else, so I probably looked like I didn't give a crap about anything.

Anyway, suffice it to say that there was some minor tension in the room with all the mental games and such. All the other guys went in two at a time. I was the last guy in the room to audition, so consequently, I got to audition alone. I did a 20-second introduction about me and my art, and then the camera guy widened the lens and I did my thing.

Yeah, I don't know what the heck I did. It sure wasn't a choreographed routine. I just hope it looked good on camera. After shutting the camera off, me and the casting guy discussed religion and such. It was a strange conversation, and if I wasn't mistaken, I'd say he had been smoking something. I guess that's not so bad, but the guy looked to be about 60.

I ran out to my SUV, saw a bunch of Asian actors standing by a car, all checking me out like they wanted to kick my ass or something. Felt just like Chinatown in the 1970s. Then I drove back to the office while stuffing a couple of breakfast bars in my mouth and drinking them down with water. I continued proofing until about 8:00. On the way home, I noticed my back was a little stiff, and my brain had grown weary. I must've sighed about a hundred times before I got in my apartment. Yup, you know it....

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

My First Dilemma

So tomorrow my agent wants me to go to a commercial audition as a martial arts guy at 4:15 somewhere in Hollywood. "4:15," I think to myself. "That's a really bad time to be driving to an audition. Especially if I'm supposed to be at work at that time." And thus, I had my first dilemma of the new job.

I don't know what I'm going to do. A few weeks ago, I told myself that if any situation like this came up, I would deal with it when it arrived. So now I'm dealing with it. And my answer is still the same. I'll deal with it when it arrives, sometime tomorrow around 3:00. That's too late for a lunch break, too early to go home for the day. I'll just have to see what happens. Maybe I'll be auditioning as a martial arts guy, maybe I won't.

Today, at work, it was just nonstop busy. I couldn't have left the office if I wanted. Well, I did drive down the street to get some really awful BBQ pork over rice. Whatever you do, don't go to Hop Woo restaurant on Olympic in West L.A. It is the absolute worst Chinese restaurant I have ever been to.

I had plans to go to the gym after work but just didn't have the energy. Right now, I'm having a beer. Grolsch in the green bottle. Pretty soon, I hope to pass out and get some sleep.

Oh, by the way, this is the second time I've auditioned for a martial arts role in five years. Five years! What's strange is the first time was two weeks ago. I think my agent wants me to do martial arts stuff now. Very strange. Guess I'll be faking it again.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Random Hungover Musings

I drank too many vodka-Red Bulls last night. Oh, I must've puked about ten times. And to think I was planning to take it easy this weekend in preparation for tomorrow's shoot. My call time is 7:30 am and I have to drive down to Long Beach, which is an hour away in heavy traffic. Hopefully, at 6:30, traffic will be light. I wouldn't know such things. I'm rarely on the road at that time.

Man, what a night, last night. I left the club at 5:30 this morning and slept most of the day. I remember being so wasted I fell on the floor on my way to the bathroom. I don't think I've ever fell down from being drunk before. What the hell was in my drinks? I only had about 4 of them. When I got the chance to sober up a bit, I was dancing back where my friends were sitting. To my right, on the couch, was an Asian couple just madly making out. Probably on E. Then I started to feel something touch my ass. At first, I thought it was just people passing behind me. But then it started to feel more like a foot, and this foot was like rubbing up and down my right butt cheek. I turned around and it was the girl who was making out on the couch with the guy. The weird thing, though, is I hardly even reacted. In fact, I just kept dancing and letting the girl play with my ass with her foot. That went on for a while. Then all of a sudden, nothing. I turned around and the couple was gone.

I just got done watching this samurai trilogy starring Toshiro Mifune. Man, that dude is cool. He was playing the role of Miyamoto Musashi, one of my heroes. I wish there was a new movie on Musashi, but I doubt there's anyone who could fill Mifune or Musashi's shoes. That guy would have to have one helluva presence.

There's a pretty awesome movie called Twilight Samurai. It stars one of the actors who was in The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise. Oh, by the way, I cried while watching that movie. Not sure why. I seem to get emotional at the oddest of things. But the Japanese woman who takes care of Mr. Cruise just had an incredible ability to emote in a deep-down yet subtle way. I also cried while watching June Kuramoto of the jazz group Hiroshima when she played a solo on the koto. Anyway, enough about my crying.

Twilight Samurai is about this poor widower who has to take care of his family on a meager salary. He never goes out with co-workers and they make fun of him because of that. That all changes, of course, when they find out he's a true samurai, a master of the short sword. Which is perfect, because he has to fight someone who is holed up inside of a house. I think the one thing Japanese are innately good at is subtlety and understatement. Probably because we hold so many things in.

I like to describe the different Asian women like this: If you tell your Chinese girlfriend you're going out with friends, she'll make a dramatic scene of it and throw a fit. Now if your girlfriend is Japanese, she won't say anything and just keep it to herself, but you might feel it later. But if your girlfriend is Korean, she'll say, "You're going out? Okay, I'm going out too." If any of these girls are Americanized, and this goes for white women too, they'll likely say something like, "Why don't we sit down and discuss this?" Oh, someone wondered about Vietnamese women, and I don't really know for sure, but I think it's something like, "Oh, can I come too?"

It's a full moon tonight, I believe. I haven't been outside all day. Boy, what a waste of a day. Well, at least I got to watch some good movies.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Down to Fumes

Without exception, it takes at least 2 months before you get paid for doing a print job. Two months! Several times, I've been paid 3 months after doing the job. That sucks! Here you are, trying to pay rent or a mortgage, perhaps a car payment or your bills, maybe even wanting to celebrate your busy workload every now and then, but you have to wait 3 months to do it!

I'm in a precarious postition, one that happens more often than I'd like. I have done some freelance work or a print job, but your clients take their time about paying you. One freelance client hasn't paid me for two months, and it isn't even that much money. Yet they still continue to have me do more work for them. But my bank account is hovering around empty. Each day, I optimistically check my mail to see if a check has arrived. And each day, I walk back to my apartment dejected.

In 2 weeks, everything will probably be fine. But right now, I'm feeling just a little desperate.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Yawn . . . I Booked the IBM

See what a difference it makes when I'm working steadily? I don't stress the little stuff, nor the big stuff, for that matter.

Yes, I booked the IBM job for Monday. And I didn't even fret it for a second. I was mostly wondering how I'd work it out with my freelance schedule. Turns out, it was not even an issue. Also, I may just get the other booking as well, but I'll hear about that one by tonight.

And it looks like my current freelance gig will extend till September, or even indefinitely. Yawn again. (No, not being cocky. Can't afford to be cocky. You should see my bank account!)

Just while writing this, the HR person of my current gig's competing client (does that make sense?) called to set up an appointment for me to meet them next week.

Oh, I like this. I like it a lot! I think I'll celebrate this weekend.

Sasha at Avalon this Saturday. Oh yeah....


This is just getting silly. This morning, I got a call on my pager, then apparently a call on my home phone (I had already left the apt.), and then finally a call on my cell phone. It seems a company is finally calling me after a year of submitting my resume for freelance work.

So, this is the really silly part. I'm actually working for the company's direct competitor this week, and possibly the next four months. I was going to mention something about it. But then she mentions that the work is all out-of-office type of work, meaning I can either pick it up or they can messenger the work to me, whichever is more convenient.

So, of course, I kept my mouth shut and told her I was interested. Please give me your assessment test.

I can look at this several ways. One, it's unethical and downright dirty. Two, it's unethical, but as long as no one knows, it won't hurt anyone. Three, as long as I'm not asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, I won't have to worry about ethics, and therefore working for both clients can actually HELP me do both jobs better. Hmmm....

Now, I really don't need extra conflict-generating angst. Got enough of that already. But the idea that I may be working nonstop for the next 4-6 months really appeals to me for some reason. Guess it's time to get off my lazy ass and join the workforce.

Oh, I also got accepted to the Level 2 workshop for Cold Tofu. So, I'll probably join that too, since the first level was so productive and enjoyable. Don't quite know yet how I'd juggle everything around, but I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually. Just hope I don't unexpectedly find a girlfriend or suddenly get hitched. That could screw things up a bit.

That leaves the only unknown variable and that's the acting career. As it is, it's been pretty manageable, even when I was working a regular day job. So, we'll just see how it pans out and if there's any conflicts. I pride myself on being a responsible person. I hope to keep that reputation. And who knows? Maybe they'll let me come in off-hours when I can't be in the office during the day.

Oh-oh, there I go again, thinking the world revolves around me. Fricking artists, eh?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

and Employed!

So I went on a few print auditions these past few weeks and it looks like I'm "on avail" for two jobs: Yahoo! and IBM. What sucks is that they kind of overlap. The IBM avail is for the 25th. Yahoo! is for either the 25th or 26th. Since nothing is confirmed, I'm on avail for both. Unfortunately, this is considered unethical, or whatever word they'll use. But money is money, and my agency will always go for the bigger paycheck, as well as leverage my new "in-demand" status to confirm my hiring.

You gotta love agents. They do the dirty work so you don't have to. That's actually one reason why I signed with my agents. I used to work at an Asian advertising agency where I did some casting and agency producing. There was a series of old commercials that the client wanted to renew for another year of airing. So, I was in the position of offering money to people.

Some of these folks I got to deal with directly. And consequently, these guys were told, by me, that our budget was small and that we'd be happy to offer $300 for one-year rights, knowing exactly that our budget would allow for up to $1500 per person. But when I got to speaking with folks who only had an agency for their contact numbers, the agents generally played hardball with me, getting me to shell out anywhere from $500 to $1000. They also wanted a "plus 10%" clause, but that wasn't going to happen, I told them. So, they just accepted this unforeseen gift and signed the contracts.

Of course I made notes of which agents dealt with me the best, from professionalism to working to get their clients the best possible deal. My agency came out one of the best. One agency was a pain in the ass. And another was a total loser. In fact, they're no longer in business. Who were they? An Asian American agency, and that's all I'll say about that.

As it is, I'm juggling freelance jobs, doing one job while in the office of another client. Next week, I'll have to say I'm sort of booked on Monday and/or Tuesday. Hopefully, I'll have two bookings back-to-back.

That would be nice indeed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


I've been doing a bunch of freelance work lately. I like having a day job, actually, because it keeps my mind off of the business and it also stops me from worrying about making money. Two very good things.

Tomorrow, I start a gig with a new client in West L.A. This is a proofreading job and it'll last a week, at the very minimum, but could go on until August, depending on how I do. It feels sort of like an audition or a screen test, but proofreading is something I think I have a natural gift for. Plus, I had a very good teacher.

On top of that, my unemployment benefits just started up again. I'll get a check for the last couple of weeks I didn't work. Can you believe it? $404 a week! That's outrageous!

Anyway, I'll be glad to be working again and also having a safety net when I'm not working. Some of you are probably wondering how this unemployment thing works. Well, no, I won't be getting a check when I'm getting paid more than the amount of my benefits, per week. But if I only earn $399 gross this week, then I'll get a check for $5.

Does everyone get $404 a week? No way. Your benefits are determined by the three months when you earned your highest tax-paying income. Plus, this quarter must fall from Jan. to March, April to June, July to Sept., or Oct. to Dec. If your highest quarter just ended a couple weeks ago, that won't count toward your benefits. The EDD puts a buffer of three months from when you file for benefits.

The only way to figure this stuff out is to actually file for benefits. I totally screwed myself the first time I filed and ended up getting only $50 a week when I could've pulled in about $300. If you find that your benefits are not advantageous, you can also cancel your filing and return any checks sent to you. I didn't know about that before.

Since I just recently filed for new benefits, it might be advantageous for me to cancel my filing, if I start working again. But I don't care about that. If I start working again, I'm just making myself eligible for next year's benefits, which is a very good thing. And that's the working actor's goal: to make enough in one quarter so that you will keep getting the highest possible weekly benefit. Right now, you should aim to make about $11,000 in one quarter to get the highest. If you anticipate earning a good deal of residuals in a certain month, then it might be a good idea to do some temp work or extra work to bulk up that quarter. Anyway, that's what I would do.

Oh, and by the way, this is not "working the system." This is how working actors survive and thrive. Taxpayers don't pay for unemployment benefits. That's split between you, the employee, and your previous employer. So don't feel guilty about it. You earned it.

Plus, it's very expensive to live here. So every dollar counts. And I wouldn't mind putting some of the extra dough into a few classes of scene or character study. Or continuing with my improv workshops. Or getting back into martial arts training. Perhaps I could even take a weekend writing course. Or buy a new computer. Or pay for online casting services. The possibilities are endless when it comes to places to wisely spend your money.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Debuting Tonight . . . Me!

The Cold Tofu improv troupe is doing their regular monthly gig tonight. Yes, it comes once a month, not unlike other things. (Sorry, I usually hold myself back, but I'm kinda excited about this.) And tonight, I get to do my Cold Tofu debut, albeit with the prefacing statement: "These are our Level 1 guys." So, let's hope there will be much generosity and sympathy displayed by the audience's hand-clappers.

I'm doing an extra carbo-brain-load right now, eating vegetables, pasta and chicken. Later, I'll have an orange and perhaps an apple chopped into some organic yogurt. Then I'll finish that up by taking some gingko pills and maybe even some orange juice, fresh-squeezed of course.

Yes, I'm going overboard. After all, it's only one little skit that'll be over in less than 5 minutes. But let me tell you, 5 naked minutes, without a script in hand, can seem like an eternity. I just want to make sure my brain doesn't starve from malnutrition.

Among other news, I had a few print auditions lately. It seems a lot of computer companies want Asian I.T. guys for their ads. Go figure, huh? Wonder where they got THAT stereotype? Oh, it's real.

And I also had the fortune of auditioning for a commercial that involved another stereotype: martial arts. Well, yes, I do know some martial arts, so I guess that's not really a stereotype either, is it? I'm not very good, and actually I haven't trained in a few years. But I like to think I still have the flexibility and speed to fake it! I didn't really choreograph a routine, so I just proceeded to do a back fist, followed by a short hook, then a spinning flying kick, and ending with a heel kick.

Doing the fasting this past month also has made me look lean and mean. If I avoid eating solids for a couple days, I can almost look like I have a four-pack.

Sorry, once again, for the forced humor. I'm just trying not to censor myself. That happens way too much when you're a practicing writer, editor and proofreader. Doesn't always work for wannabe improv artists.

Oh, one other note about that last audition. I got a call from my commercial agent, who usually just informs me of bookings and unexpected money coming my way. He's a great guy and I look forward to hearing his voice, for obvious reasons. Well, he just wanted to make sure I went to the audition, since the casting director made a special call to my agent about me. It seems she thinks I have the look they're after. I know I haven't posted any pictures for you, so you'll have to use your imagination. But I'll let you know if I should book this one. I'm due for a good booking, anyway.

Friday, April 01, 2005

And He Sat Under the Bodhi Tree

I'm on Day 7 of this fast now and I've decided that today will be my last day. Besides, I've run out of lemons for the juice I've been drinking nonstop since, well, 7 days ago.

Some have said that there can be a religious experience associated with fasts. I'm down with that. But if my religious experience happened, I'd have to say I owe much of it to last Wednesday's improv class (which takes place in a Catholic school, by the way).

I've always thought that really great actors had a very special view of themselves. An ultra-self-awareness, so to speak. They seem to know themselves on the outside and inside better than most of us know what the inside of our belly-button looks like.

What I mean by that is they know how people perceive them, and they know how to manipulate those perceptions.

Before I make an even lamer attempt to explain this, I should say that, in the last class, we were doing some drills designed to indicate status of a character. After some role-playing, I figured out that I had the hardest time playing a character of low status. First of all, that's not a compliment at all. It's most likely a sign of low self-esteem. Either that or I was raised to think I was some sort of prince, as one former boss has opined.

When I learned this, I tell you, the skies opened up wide and the eyes of heaven looked down upon me and took one big laugh at my expense, thank you very much. This little bit of information explains much of why I've chosen certain paths and decisions, as well as why I've made certain mistakes in life.

I really don't know the deeper implications of this new information. I have to ask a professional and thank goodness I have one in the family. But it does explain why I have trouble making a total ass out of myself in class, and it also explains why I don't book certain commercials. I mean, think about it. Just how many commercials want an Asian guy to be Mr. Superior in the spot? Not too many.

Today, I was also working on a freelance writing job and when I turned it in, the supervisor said that I needed to dumb down my language. Wow, my language too, eh? So, like I said, it explains a lot about my decisions and mistakes in life.

Looking back, I know that I've been a prick through much of my adult life. I've also been fairly mild-mannered, especially when I first moved here and didn't know diddly. It was probably during those days when people liked me most.