Tag Archives: actor

Day 223. The Ordinary of It. 3 Things

Sunday, October 3, 2011

Here are three things I’ve been learning lately.

1. All of the glamour of Hollywood is done in post production. You know the magic of Hollywood? You know how people want to move here to be a part of the glamour of the entertainment industry? I don’t think it really exists. Certainly, I have a long ways to go before I make in into the upper echelons of Hollywood. However, I’ve been on set for Mad Men, and Community, and Letterman, and been by the swanky places, and seen celebrities out and about. I was struck with this thought while I was an extra on Mad Men. I was sitting in my booth playing my part and listening to the acting going on behind me. It just struck me, “Oh, there is a lot of to do with this, but it’s still just two people who memorized the lines written for them and now they say them to each other in front of the camera.” That is the exact same thing I could say for any acting I’ve done on camera, or anyone else who is making a movie with friends. Sure, there are a lot of crew members, and there is a lot of equipment, and a lot of money involved, but in the end it’s the same thing. Somehow we think that’s it’s different here. I think that’s because the final product looks so good, but that’s all done in post production. I find that both bubble bursting and inspiring.

2. I think the most important quality a person in Hollywood has to have is patience. As I know, there is patience required to try to make it. Then, when you do “make it” you have to have patience for the next thing. I heard an interview with Paul Rudd where he said, “What people don’t realize about being an actor is that you’re constantly looking for a job.” Even when you have a career, you still have to be striving and putting yourself out there, and that requires patience. Plus, things seem like a sure thing and turn out to be a bust all the time. The Mad Men scene I was in was not more than eight lines, yet they had so many people working on it, so much equipment, and took hours upon hours to film. Patience, more than anything else has to be an ingredient.

3. My last point relates to my first in that you have to enjoy the ordinary of it. Yes, Hollywood is the place of dreams, and people come out here to pursue their dreams, but at a certain point the dreaminess wears off, and you have to enjoy the process and the ordinary of it. I think that is true of any dream or adventure. I think it’s only worth pursuing the dreams you have if you think you would like it once the high passes. That’s the same for relationships and marriages I suppose.

We’ve all heard famous actors say something to the effect of, “My life is boring, I don’t know why people are so interested in it,” or “Being an actor is not that exciting, there isn’t much exciting about it.” When I hear that I always think, “Okay, but it’s still probably really exciting, right? Right?” or “That sounds boring, tell me more!”

I haven’t made it into being a big time actor yet, but I’ve been around it a little, and I know what ordinary is. Eventually, with certainty, all things you do become ordinary if you do them for long enough. Can you get joy out of the ordinary? That’s the question.

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Day 221. Mikey, Subway, Stowaway Socks. Random Tidbits

Friday, September 30, 2011

Here are some random stories of late that I haven’t been able to fit in anywhere.

-I have encountered a mystery, for which I have no explanation. I was tying my shoe at work the other day. I was bent down and I realized I had something poking out of my pant leg. What was it? One of my socks. No, it was not attached to my body, I was wearing a pair of socks. This was a stowaway sock. It was mine, but I have no understanding of how it happened. I had recently done laundry, yes. I had also grabbed the jeans off of a pile of clean laundry. However, I had worn the jeans the day before with no trace of an extra sock. Also, if the sock managed to get into my jeans from the laundry pile, how did it survive the force of my leg going through the pant leg? I can only guess that there was really strong static cling. I was laughing to myself as I saw the sock poking out and had to explain it to a customer who was watching me. Professional.

-I was in line at Subway on Thursday ordering my food. There were nice people behind the counter helping to put on the veggies on my turkey breast and ham. A couple of the sandwich artist girls were smiling at me in a way that doesn’t happen to me very often. I couldn’t quite figure it out. Then, while I was paying, one of the smiley girls said to me, “Are you an actor?” At first, I was wondering if she had seen my One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning commercials in Springfield. Then I realized probably not. I said, “I’m trying to be one, but I haven’t been in anything.” I wish I would have said, “You got me, it’s me, Morgan Freeman.”

-Speaking of Subway, what is with the Black Forest Ham? Doesn’t ham that comes from the forest, come from a forest pig? Isn’t a forest pig a boar? Come to Subway to get the newest $5.00 Footlong, Slices of Boar. Doesn’t sound appetizing.

-I have my third installment at the Comedy Store on Saturday night. This time it’s in the Original Room, and it’s on a Saturday night. I think I’m going to bring a lot of people, so it should go well. I hope.

-I helped out the guitarist from Weezer at work the other day. I could tell by his e-mail address, and the fact that he had long fingernails like guitarists often do, and by me googling him after he left. I also recently helped out this old guy, who I taught to send an e-mail. He was a longtime director who was friends with Charlton Heston and Rock Hudson. He was also married to Patty Duke. I Googled him too. I don’t think he will see this based on his knowledge of computers. Very nice guy. Today, a coworker pointed out to me that a guy in the store was the guy who was in those old Life cereal commercials, Mikey. “He likes it, hey Mikey!” 

-I had a dream last night that there was another bedroom in the house that I’m staying in that had a kitchenette. I was kind of ticked off. I don’t think it was real though because I was also naked.

-I called SAG Thursday because I haven’t gotten my eligibility paperwork yet. It turns out they’re doing my paperwork wrong. Dummies.

-I was walking out of the house to my car yesterday and the dog that I hate that ruins all of my sleeping was next door tied up in the front yard. It started barking at me so I said, “Shut up!” then I noticed that the owner was sitting on the porch. I put my head down and kept going to my car.

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Filed under Acting, Daily Update, Funny, Hollywood Life, Stories

Day 218. My Day on Mad Men

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

*Note: I have not made a Monday post yet, but I am going to skip it to talk about Tuesday first.

Today, I became a man, a Mad Man. This was it, today was the day I was to make my premiere on Mad Men. Let’s do this sucker chronologically. 

5:30. Alarm goes off. I hit snooze.0.

5:45. I’m up.

6:06. I’m out of the shower and I shave and put whatever goopy junk I use in my hair. I look at myself in the mirror and remember that they told me to not have any goopy junk in my hair when I arrive.

6:08. I’m back in the shower removing goopy junk.

6:30. I’m driving to the studio which is located downtown. My call time is 8 am and I have no idea how long it takes to actually get there. All I know is that the longest it has taken to get anywhere in the city for me is an hour and a half.

7:10. I’ve arrived 50 minutes early, so I recline my seat and take a nap.

7:30. I wake up and there is a girl next to me who has pulled up in her car. Her hair is in hot rollers, indicating she is a female extra on the show.

7:35. After checking with security, I walk to a table in front of some trailers to check in. I’m still a half hour early, so the guy tells me I can get some food. The food is awesome. I had a breakfast burrito and fresh fruit (not just melons either. We’re talking pineapples and strawberries)

8:00. Wardrobe is handing me my costume and I walk up to our dressing room to change.

8:11. I’m dressing into the 1960s with a few other men. They are regular extras. Some of them know each other from working on other shows together. It’s a fascinating subculture. It’s just another day of work for them. Most of them are older than me and are joking about how they remember the fashion from Mad Men in real life.

8:18. I’m dressed, but crap, my pants look like capris, they’re way too short.

8:23. Back at the trailer, wardrobe agrees with me. They take them and I change into my jeans for now and head to hair and makeup.

8:28. Makeup only covers one blemish, and I had to point it out. Perfect skin. The hair lady kills the environment with hairspray to make me look right. It was a lot, my hair was crispy.

8:40. I’ve got my pants on and they’re the right length this time.

8:41. I find out that we’re going to be shuttled by van to a location, rather than shooting on set. While we’re waiting one of the older extras offers to take a picture of the girl we’re waiting with, so she can “show her mother and grandmother.” When he’s done, I ask him to do the same thing. He’s seems surprised. Apparently, he only takes pictures of girls. In retaliation, he gets his finger in each shot he takes.

8:44. They load us up. About ten of us in my van looking like we’re straight out of the ’60s. They drop us off at “holding,” a bar around the corner from the shoot. It just so happens to be the bar where I played in a ping pong tournament earlier this summer.

8:53. A we wait, a person comes in to take each of our pictures, so they can determine who they want sitting where. The scene is in a diner. There are booths along the wall, and a walkway, then a counter with a row of stools parallel with the booths.

8:59. They’re calling people together to send them up. I’m not in the first group.

9:04. I’m not in the second group.

9:05. There are four of us that remain. A couple of the old timers are certain that means that we’re not getting in. They don’t seem to mind, they’ll be somewhere else tomorrow.

9:16. Finally, we’re called up. We wait in a row outside the diner. There’s a ton of equipment on the sidewalk as well. Really, extras aren’t much more than equipment. Extras are props, and not much more. It’s just the way it is.

9:24. I’m totally convinced that I’m going to be left out like I was on the game show several months ago. I would just be left waiting.

9:33. Then.

9:33. A PA jumps out and says, “You!” He points in my direction and I follow him in. I’m to occupy the last booth. I’m supposed to be a guy who is waiting for a friend to arrive. This has never happened to me in real life. I’m always the guy that a friend is waiting for.

9:34. It looks great on the inside. They have decorated it with signs from the 60s. I even have a menu with meals for $.95. There is not a thing that indicates it’s not the 1960s in view of the camera. Outside the camera there are all kinds of lights and screens, and equipement, and people, so many people.

9:40. I suppose I can’t say much about the scene. There are two regular characters that are there. A regular walks in and talks to a regular at the counter. That’s about it. There are probably eight lines. It is amazing how much work and stuff goes into that one short scene. There are so many people, and so many equipment, and so many details paid attention to.

9:58. My back is to the camera for the whole scene, I’m probably not very visible. But, I was acting my heart out on the inside. Where is my friend? Why isn’t he here yet? Was he in an accident? Did the Commies get him, like they got Jimmy? I was worried sick. Sure, all you’ll see on TV is my back to the camera, but there was a whole back story.

10:46. They’re done with me for now. I go back to holding.

10:52. Probably the coolest part of the day. I saw what the industry calls “craft services,” otherwise known by what we call “food” in the normal world. It was a whole spread of food. I got taquitos and fruit mostly. Plus, they had these big bottles of Naked Juice, which is what I get at Starbucks all the time. They’re like $3.45 for 12 ounces. Here, I could have as much as I wanted. Also, they had Nutrigrain bars and other packaged items. Was I the guy who put a lot of that crap in my pockets? You are darn right I was. Probably not cool, but I never eat. It was like inviting a raccoon to a Golden Corral.

11:14. I’m talking to another extra. Talking to new people might be my favorite thing about all of these adventures. This guy lives in LA half the year and does background work when he wants to. The rest of the year he is a captain of a private yacht in Seattle. Apparently, he also lives on the yacht and just takes the rich owners out when they want him to.

11:39. The old timers are predicting that the shoot is probably done.

11:53. Nope.

11:53. The PA comes down to grab us again. We head up to take our spots. They’re still shooting the same scene, this time from another angle.

12:01. They supply with a friend who has arrived. The Commies had not gotten to him. Phew.

12:06. They change their mind with us. The two guys they had put standing in the doorway were too short. They switched us.

12:11. Now, I’m an entirely new character with new motivations. This time, I’m standing in the doorway with a friend and we’re talking about what we’re doing later. We’re holding briefcases.

12:14. They decide we should be smoking. We have the following conversation with the guy.

Guy: Either of you guys smoke?

Us: No.

Guy: Great, I’ve got the two coolest guys in Hollywood.

12:16. He lights our cigarettes, which are just herbal cigarettes, so I don’t choke to death. I definitely felt like I’ve made it because, not only am I on Mad Men, I’m also smoking in a scene while holding a briefcase.

12:22. They just keep shooting the same scene over and over. So, next time when you’re watching any show at home, think about how much time they put into just that one scene. This is probably true of even crappy shows too. Also, whenever you’re watching background actors, know that when you see their mouths moving that they aren’t actually talking, they’re mouthing the whole thing. I was mouthing about plotting a murder.

1:04. I’m back in holding thinking about what packaged food to take with me.

1:13. We’re back in the dressing room changing back to this decade.

1:15. My friend in the scene and I are talking. It turns out that he works as a character at Disneyland. He often plays Goofy and Captain America. How cool is that?

1:16. I turn my wardrobe in. It turns out I got paid an extra $8.00 because I was smoking. Bizarro world.

1:34. I’m back to this decade, so I decide to stay downtown and hang out. I went to a French coffee shop run by an Asian couple, and I fell asleep in a park. I’m a Mad Man.

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Day 216. Beat the Hump, An Illustration

Sunday, September 25, 2011

When I started telling people that I was moving to Los Angeles, they would often remark about how difficult that must be. I started replying, “If I had known how difficult it was going to end up being, I probably wouldn’t have decided to do it.” That was mostly true. I just kind of decided and stuck with it even though it was harder than I anticipated.

Uprooting yourself is hard. Starting over in a new place is hard. There is definitely a hump you have to get over. Now that I’ve been here for awhile, I’ve gotten to the other side of the hump and can see that it’s pretty good on this side, I just needed to be willing to go up and over the hump.

How many times have I wanted something but turned around when I saw the hump?

Today, I decided I would illustrate that with, well, an illustration.

Often, we will get an idea of something we really want, and really like. For instance, joining a traveling carnival. 

So, we research what it is going to take to get there, and plot out a course.

Excitedly, we get together everything we need, and we start going.

It’s a long walk, but it’s worth it.

Uh-oh. Even though it is something we really want, there is a hump we have to get over to get there. It’s really upsetting. 

It’s worrying. There is this great goal on the other side, but that hump seems insurmountable, it seems daunting.

We start to imagine that it’s even worse than it actually is. We may even imagine that there is a polar bear with a pistol on top of the hump.

It all seems too big. We lose sight that the hump is temporary. So, we turn around and we go home. We give up.

But, we always think about how much we still like the goal. We still want to be a part of the carnival. The hump was just too big and scary to get past.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. This is what I’ve learned, if you can just buckle down and get past the hump, you’ll realize that it’s not so bad. Yes, the hump is daunting, and yes, it is scary, but it’s not insurmountable. It’s just not. The hump is temporary.

The times that we take on the hump, we’re happy when we arrive.

We even look back fondly on the hump. What was once so daunting, is now a happy memory. The hump became the best part of the story. You won. Don’t let the hump stop you.

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Day 214. 13 Steps to a Good Audition

Friday, September 23, 2011

I had an audition today. I don’t think I’ve ever walked people through an audition before, so let’s try that.

13 Steps to a Good Audition

Step 1. Locate the audition and estimate how long it will take to get there, then add 30 minutes, because it’s going to take longer. Actually, it seems to me that it’s not entirely important that you’re on time. I’ve been very early before and very late. They just want to run people through. My audition today was at a place called Space Station Casting Studios. It’s 15 minute bike ride for me. Good.

Step 2. Before you leave, be sure you have your headshot and acting resume. They need to be stapled, with the resume facing out on the back of the headshot. You should staple the top and the bottom. I am always frantically doing this right before I leave. It is still odd to me to have a bunch of pictures in my room with my smiling face looking back at me.

Step 3. Outside the casting studio, use the camera in your phone to check for food in your teeth. I do this every time.

Step 4. When you get to the lobby, sign in. This is something that no one explains to you. You have to sign in, so they know you are there. At the casting studio today, there were four auditions going on for different projects.

Step 5. Survey the others sitting near you. Start picking out people who look like you, they are your competition. Be sure they see you sharpening a knife at various times. Pick out others and try to determine what sort of role they may be auditioning for.

Today, I sat on a bench with others. It turns out the bench was broken and was slowly buckling under our weight. I sat by a woman with her daughter who was auditioning, they both seemed strangely normal. When we got moved because the bench seemed like it was going to snap at any moment, I sat on a love seat of a bench with a large man. You know how if you’re sitting and someone else comes to sit next to you where there is not that much room, you scoot over a little bit out of politeness? This gentleman did not know this rule. He was the type of guy who sat with his legs as far apart as possible. I had one cheek on, one cheek off.

Step 6. Check to see if there are sides. Sometimes they will give you sides ahead of time, and sometimes they will just have some there when you arrive. Today, there were none. This is good for me, it means that it’s going to mostly be improvised.

Step 7. Enter the audition room when you are called. They are usually just very small rooms. Hand the people your stapled resume and headshot. This is where you want to be yourself, a confident friendly version of yourself. If you don’t have a confident, friendly version of yourself naturally, put yourself somewhere between, I’m meeting my girlfriend’s parents for the first time and I just made the best possible yogurt concoction at a self serve yogurt place. You are humble, but you are also a master.

Step 8. Join in the awkward small talk the people behind the table make with you. They want to like you, so you can show them that you would be fun to work with. Today, we talked about how to pronounce my last name and Houghton, MI. I was charming.

Step 9. Listen intently while they tell you about what they’re hoping for in the project. This is your chance to hear where they are coming from. When they ask you if you have any questions about the role, ask something about the character’s motivation, they like that. Don’t ask about their position on physician assisted suicide, you’ve passed the small talk portion.

Step 10. Slate, this is where you say your name to the camera.

Step 11. Act! I was auditioning for two commercials in the same series today. The premise for them is a guy in his thirties who lives with his parents and needs to be move out, so he needs to use their service to find his own place. The first spot was me in the bathroom brushing my teeth while my parents were grossly getting ready in the bathroom at the same time bumping me and annoying me. Obviously, there is no one around me, so I had to pretend like there were, while I was sitting. Michelle and I have a tiny bathroom, so this wasn’t too difficult to improvise. I made them laugh, good sign.

The second one was that I was making out on the couch with a girl I brought home. It’s dark and I am shocked to realize that my parents are doing the same thing on the other end of the couch. This one was more difficult because I had to improvise that I was making out. Do you know how hard that is? I put my arms around an invisible girl on my lap (I’m married, it was Michelle of course). I basically just kept my mouth open and moved my head around, which is exactly what I do when I’m actually making out. Then, I acted shocked when I saw my parents, who were the two guys behind the desk off camera. I made them laugh again.

Step 12. Shake their hands and walk out trying to step over the remains of their minds, which were just blown.

Step 13. Walk through the lobby of the other auditioners like the cool guy in the movie who has just set off an explosion behind him, but is too cool to even look back to watch.

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Day 95. A Mystery Hour Again

May 27, 2011

Today, I had an improv show and a Mystery Hour. It was like old times! The improv show went pretty well, like most other things since I’ve been back, it felt supremely normal. The training I’ve been doing in improv comes from a slightly different perspective, so I could feel that a little bit, but mostly it was fun to be doing it again, I’ve missed doing improv with my longtime friends.

The Mystery Hour went off without a hitch. Just kidding, we were very hitchy and rusty. We had mic problems and music problems, but it was still a good show. In the past, that stuff would have really bugged me, but tonight, I was just happy to be doing it again.

My friend, Catherine, who I met on the plane, that works for Community was my first guest. Then we fooled the audience into thinking a blindfolded man put a mouse in his mouth. My friend, Matt, was the next guest, who had been a guest on the very first show. Then, we did a sketch that wasn’t funny at all. Then we had an amazing band on.

We came home and I interviewed my sister in law’s boyfriend, who I just met, about his intentions with my sister in law.

 

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Day 82. First Improv Show in Months

Saturday, May 15, 2011

My first improv class showcase show in seven years. The last time I did one was at Evangel University when I took the Skinny Improv class. Just like that class I didn’t think the show was going to go great, so I didn’t invite a lot of people.

But first, I had an audition in the morning. I hopped on my bike and headed up to it. They had given me “sides” the day before when they contacted me. It is a project for industrials for an Army base. In the first scene I played a husband, and in the second one, I thought I was supposed to read for the “tall lanky smart alec,” making comments when the sergeant was talking. In fact, I was supposed to be the sargent talking about the howitzers and stuff. They gave me a few extra minutes to practice in the hallway since I had prepared for the wrong role. I think I won’t be getting that role. I don’t think I can pull off Army sergeant very well. Drop and give me twenty…please.

My improv class was at UCB, and the others in my class did a great job of getting friends there as the place was almost packed, which helps so  much. Our teacher divided us up into two groups and my group went second during the show. We named ourselves the Ne’er Do Well Gang. While the first group was going, I was thinking, “I can’t wait to get up there, it is so fun up there.” The first group did great and the crowd was really into it. When our group went up there, I remembered, “Oh yeah, I’ve done hundreds of these before.” The show went really well. A girl in my class said her friends thought the awkward blonde guy was really good. I told this to Michelle and she said that indeed I can look awkward on stage. After the show, our class was really excited, so we all hung out for a lot of hours. I’m sad to see it done, there were cool people in the class. There are, I believe, 4 levels of classes at UCB, so I’m probably going to move on to Level 2 soon.

This makes me excited to come back and perform at the Skinny on May 27th, when I’m home. I can’t wait to come home.

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