Tag Archives: jeff houghton

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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Day 220. Mountains and Oceans and Sunsets and Mooching

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Every day I have off, I want to do something big. However, doing something big requires forethought and planning, which is not one of my specialties. I want to hike to the top of Mt. Baldy, which is one of the highest peaks around here. When I go to bed I think, I’ll get up early and see how I feel. No. That doesn’t work, it never does. You know what I want to do when I wake up early? I want to go back to bed, and nothing else. In the future, I need to absolutely plan the night before.

But, it still ended up pretty good. I went to Malibu and hiked the mountains right by the ocean. There wasn’t any tree cover, I didn’t peak anything really challenging, but it was a good time. Then, on the way down, the sun was setting. It was setting right about where the mountain and the water meet on the horizon. I’ve got to say, it was gorgeous. I ran the rest of the way down, because it’s way easier than running up, and because I wanted to get to the beach before it was totally dark.

I got to my car and threw my stuff in, then I crossed the PCH and got to the beach. I took my shirt and shoes off and waded into the water. The sun was down, but the sky was still orange. Cars were driving on the PCH around a curve next to the mountain with their headlights on. There was a sliver of a moon. There were big boats on the horizon with their lights on. The ocean was glassy. So, I played in the water for awhile. I’m beginning to love the ocean.

To be honest, I tend to think about what I’m missing out on a lot. I think it is a cousin to being driven, always trying to strive for something more. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve been missing out on, and what I more I could be doing here. But, in that moment, I had his strong sense of enjoying the moment, enjoying what I have. How cheesy does that sound? I don’t care, it happened.

The beach I was on was a campground beach. I’ve never seen a campground beach before. Where I come from you camp in the woods. There was only one set up near me, but it was awesome. They had one of those big tents with different wings to it. There was the main area, and on either side, what I can only assume was the library and solarium. Then, they had a food sort of tent, and a thin upright, tall tent, that I’m guessing was a shower, or port a potty tent, but not both.

I put my shirt and my shoes back on and told myself, “I’m going to get those people to invite me to have dinner with them.” How cool of a story would it be to eat dinner with a random couple camping on the beach? So, I took my wet self up the rocks to their site. A woman was out amongst the food. Out of the darkness I said, “Hi, I don’t mean to intrude, but I’m from the Midwest, and we camp in the woods, I’ve never seen beach camping.” Great opening line. The woman was nice, and as we talked, I just kept saying what a cool set up they have, and how amazing it is that they can just eat on the beach. I tried to be really charming. She was nice, but I got no invitation to eat, only a “Welp, we’re going to play cards now.” Then I walked away.

I did learn about beach camping, though. I want to do it. I must do it.

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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 215. Tired=Bad Decisions

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Boy, I am just a working stiff now. Honestly, I thought when I got a part time job that I would be working a few days a week, maybe getting 20-25 hours a week. This has not been the case. I don’t want to complain at all about working, because everyone has to do it, I was looking for so long, and I need the money. However, right now, my job is not my priority.

Man, it feels like all I do is go to and from work these days. If I choose to fit something else into my day, I get tired the next day. I get two days off a week. You know what this feels like? Regular life. In this time that I’ve dubbed Phase 3, that was one of my goals. I wanted to see what it is like to be realistic in terms of seeing what this going for Hollywood thing feels like with a job. It feels like regular life, tiring. Also, in LA, your workday is extended for all intents and purposes, by at least an hour for commuting purposes. I’m lucky, it only takes me like a half an hour to get to work, it takes longer for most people.

Yesterday, I got an energy drink and a Butterfinger. I drink a lot of caffeine now. I don’t like coffee, so it’s mostly energy drinks and caffeine. Do you ever notice when you’re really tired that you think, “Screw this, I’m eating what I want. I’m tired, I deserve it.” I wonder if all the worst decisions in history were done just because the person was tired. “I didn’t want to assassinate Kennedy, I had just been working so many hours, and eating too many spicy foods after 9:00, it just seemed like a good idea,” said Lee Harvey Oswald. “Bernie Madoff seemed like I nice guy, and I was so tired. I just gave him all my savings.”

In college, I used to pull all nighters fairly often. It was a mixture of being really driven and being really good at procrastinating. One finals week, I had to stay up all night two nights in a row because the computer I was using had a virus and lost my 20 page paper. Thank you, Acer.

The second night, I went crazy. I was no longer quite of this world. My mind had a hard time functioning with normal thoughts. As I sat at the kitchen table working at about 3:00 am, I knew I had to have some sleep. However, if I laid down, I was never going to get back up again. If I sat down, I ran the same risk. In a moment of weird sleep deprived logic, I looked at the corner in the kitchen and thought, “I bet I can sleep for a few minutes standing in the corner.” So, I walked over to the corner and leaned forward with my head, and let the corner walls support my body weight. Then, I slept for about fifteen minutes. When I woke up, I thought, “I can’t believe I just slept standing up.” I worked for about a half hour longer, was seduced by the comforts of the corner again, and fell asleep standing up once again.

It’s going to be trouble when Michelle and I have a baby someday.

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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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