Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Making Lemonade

So I show up at the studio for Major Restaurant Chain, and pretty quickly things go sideways. I was actually early, so I spent 45 minutes or so just going over the script incessantly so I'd have it down cold. At 8:30am the director wants to see me so I can walk the set and get acquainted with what I'll be doing. Funny thing is, he keeps referencing lines in the script that aren't there, a la "here's your spatula for when you talk about flipping burgers". Burgers? What burgers? I don't mention burgers at all.

You guessed it -- they'd changed the script. Like, radically. Somehow the changes didn't get communicated to me, so here I am having memorized a script that basically didn't exist anymore. Fortunately, I'd heeded the note from my agent to "bring your Ear, just in case", because now I really needed it.

The Ear, for those who don't know, is shorthand for "ear prompter". In its most basic form, there's a wireless receiver that plays into an earpiece. You see broadcasters wear 'em all the time. That clear plastic tube that coils up the back of their neck and goes to one of their (real) ears? That's so a director or prompter in the booth can talk to them, telling them to go to commercial or bailing them out if things go wong. For the type of job I was doing today, the wireless receiver is replaced by a tape recorder which plays back to an antenna fashioned into a loop, which is then worn over one shoulder under my clothes. The broadcaster's earpiece is replaced by a wireless hearing aid, which is tuned to the frequency at which the antenna is broadcasting. And what's being broadcast into my ear? A tape of myself, reading the script. It's kind of bizarre, actually, and most actors require a certain amount of training in order to perform well using this device. Why? Because it's difficult for most people to listen to something in one ear and then repeat it verbatim out loud, just 1 or 2 seconds behind the tape, without looking glassy eyed... or like they're concentrating hard... or like they know what they're actually saying.

So I go downstairs, virtually undress completely so I can put the antenna on, then look for a quiet place where there aren't people talking on cell phones (an irritating habit a lot of actors have while they're waiting to be used) so I can spew the new script onto my recorder. Back upstairs, and we did 3 or 4 takes until we realized that the pacing of the script, as I'd recorded it, wasn't going to work. Back downstairs, re-record it, then upstairs again, this time with my pause switch (it's a little on/off switch that snakes down one sleeve or out of one pocket that allows me to halt the playback for a moment if needed). As it turns out, it was needed, and it was kind of tricky flipping the switch at the right moments without the camera seeing.

Still, by Take 8 we'd actually shot something that could be used (and 2 of the previous takes had been bad for lighting & camera reasons), so I was beginning to feel like maybe I shouldn't punish myself for not having practiced my Ear technique for nearly a year. Of course, as soon as I thought that, the next take sucked, but Take 10 was "da bomb", and both crew and client were laughing at the playback and clapping afterwards. Mission accomplished and, surprisingly, on schedule (they'd allotted until Noon to shoot my section, and that was precisely the time we finished).

Home now and, as usual after one of these high-concentration gigs, I'm exhausted. Off to bed for a nap...

Monday, March 28, 2005

Home Again

Spent the weekend Down South with Cherokee's folks, eating the best-tasting Heart Stupid food on the planet. Looooong drive home (10 hours) which started at 3:30am so I could make a 2:10pm voiceover audition which, honestly, at this moment, I can't remember what it was for.

I have to wake up bright and early tomorrow because I have an industrial for a Major Food Chain. For those who don't know, an "industrial" is any performance intended to be seen and heard only by a select group, and not via conventional broadcasting channels. The classic example is a training tape shown to new employees within a company, but it also covers that DVD that came with your new car showing you all its features, as well as the recorded voice on the telephone telling you to "input your personal identification number using the buttons on your phone" (which, incidentally, is the sort of job that earns Cherokee most of her acting income each year).

Anyway, this industrial tomorrow doesn't pay great, compared to a commercial or film job, and it's in the "wrong" union (more on that later), but at least it's something. Got to get to bed PDQ, though, after going over my script for the umpteenth time (lucky I had it in hand almost two weeks ago -- a luxury in this biz). Hope it goes well tomorrow...

Thursday, March 24, 2005


OK, I don't know why I was so cagey with that "creative field" reference in my first post. I'm actually a professional actor. Actually, I do know why I was being cagey -- it's one of those things you tell people and they pretty consistently form an immediate opinion of you. Flakey. Egocentric. Exhibitionist.

Not that that's not an incorrect characterization sometimes. To be fair, I do know my share of flakey egocentric exhibitionists. They're not all in the Acting Biz, but I guess most of them are (though, let's face it, that's mostly who I hang around, so it's not like I'm exposed to a sociological cross-section of the population).

Regardless, while I might have been into the whole Actor Persona at one time, I personally think I've mellowed with age to the extent now that I'm seriously looking at it as a career. Know why? Two words: Health Benefits. You only need to experience one health problem that is magically paid for (well 80%) by your union's health fund to realize that your performances are no longer about maybe someday making you famous, but rather about working to meet the minimum income requirements each year to ensure that your health benefits and pension vesting continue.

I guess turning that corner (from "wannabe famous" to "arts professional") was sobering, but I have to say I'm fantastically more comfortable in my own skin now. And I guess I'm perhaps more prone now to taking offense when people start behaving dismissively towards me and/or other artists, which is why I didn't mention it straight off.

Sorry for the initial deception.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

First Post

Unabashed newbie here, so cut me some slack, alright? I've been viewing blogs for years now, but never felt the desire myself to post until recently, and then mostly because I grew fed up with much of the anonymous sniping that passes for intelligent discourse on the Internet.

For what it's worth, though...

I'm male, I work in a "creative" field, and I live in the Chicago area. I'm a social liberal but a fiscal conservative, which used to be called "Rockefeller Republican" but seems now to be called "Clinton Democrat", "Independent", or "UnAmerican", depending who you talk to. I have a graduate degree, but I don't use it to teach, despite the prodding of family members. I currently have a menagerie of house pets, though nothing particularly exotic. My dog wags his tail when I come home, and that's enough for me.

Something I guess you should know about me is that I see the world in shades of gray rather than simple black & white. I say that now because some people find it perplexing (even infuriating) when I weigh in on issues and they can't tell whose "side" I'm on. I'm not always "in the middle", but at the same time I'm astounded that so few people even recognize that there is a middle ground, especially when it comes to the volatile issues of politics, religion and sexuality.

I also mention it because I think that slapping a label on someone, while admittedly convenient, ultimately does them a disservice. I mean, I guess you could call me straight, a Christian, and a Democrat, but the fact of the matter is that I've never found a denomination that really served me well, I only consider myself 95% straight (allowing for the possibility, however remote, that I could actually be in a sexual situation with another male and not be turned off) and, well, you already know about my politics.

I guess that's all I have to say for starters. Flame away, if you like, but know that I tend to only respond to comments that appear to have more than 60 seconds worth of thought invested in them.