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.


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.'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.