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:

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.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Been Awhile

It's been a while since I've posted anything. It's just gotten so busy with the freelance stuff lately.

I ended up being signed by the new client I had the interview with. To refresh, they're the competing client of my current client. They require that I sign a nondisclosure agreement, and so I asked someone who is in corporate management what they thought of my situation. He said it was fine as long as I don't share trade secrets with either client. And the fact that I'm basically sharing info with myself doesn't really count.

The other thing is, my current client is a short-term gig, so by the time I get into the work with the new client, I will have finished half my contract already. Still, it does feel sort of like having a mistress.

I had a strange thing happen. The IBM print job I did happened two weeks ago. But this past week I got a call from my agent putting me "on avail" for a reshoot of that job. A reshoot, you ask? Yes. And that means I get paid the exact same amount as the original shoot. Well, the next day, my agent calls and says they cancelled my avail. That's cool, I thought, since I was having to juggle my workload. I was feeling lucky for a second, but then felt a little irritated after the cancellation. Anyway, they called again and said that I was "confirmed" for the job. Very strange industry. I won't count my chickens until I'm on the set and they begin shooting. And besides, I won't actually see the additional money, nor the original amount, for another 3 months, so I might as well put it out of my mind anyway.

As you may remember, I have this deal with my photographer that I would buy him dinner every time I book a job over $1000. So I told him about the reshoot and he asks, "Hey, does this mean you're buying me another dinner?" I told him no, since it was the same booking. A technicality, I suppose. But he then said he'd like to update my headshots again this year, so what the heck, I might as well throw in another meal. I've been keeping an informal tally on the people who have shot with this photographer since I took my pics and I think it's past 5 now. But probably more because some people have asked me who shot my pics and I just give them the url.

Most of the actors I know in this business are familiar with his work. And consequently, they haven't used him for a number of years, for one reason or another. But that was when they shot strictly in black and white. Now with color, it's a whole different ballgame and takes a photog who has experience with the digital color medium. In my opinion, this takes a person with experience shooting color film and knows how the shot should look on film when doing digital.

My color pics look very much like me. I don't hide much either. I show most of my flaws, so when casting directors see me in person, they always comment that I look exactly like my photo. And I've learned that this is a very good thing.

Actors who have been in the industry for a while seem to have the most difficulty keeping up with the changes in the casting system (ie., the choice of color over black and white). Five or six years ago, electronic casting was in its infancy. There was some initial hype, but no one really bought into it. Now, there are at least five legitimate e-casting sites: Breakdown Services, Now Casting, Players Guide, LA Casting, and some others I have never heard of before but are supposed to be very good services. With the additional money from the print work, I will invest in some of these services. And I might even take another acting class.

So far, a couple of actors have made slight criticisms of my choice to take the Cold Tofu improv workshops, mostly because they think it's too safe an environment to be actually doing the "real stuff." I think that's a bunch of bullcrap. Everyone has a personal level. I know where mine is, and just because you may think I'm capable of something much more challenging, that doesn't mean it's right for me. I think I'll make the decision to challenge myself when I reach that intersection. Until then, I'm perfectly happy with my learning curve.

I'm also fairly aware of intangibles such as energy and enthusiasm. Cold Tofu has gone through a certain revival, and unless you experience it firsthand, you're likely to dismiss it. And besides, I'm a part of that energy and enthusiasm. I just may be making a difference myself.