Wednesday, April 27, 2005

And the Fun Keeps Happening

I'm writing this from a hotel room in Indianapolis. Why? Because I landed that commercial for the Regional Bank. Actually, I landed both it and the industrial I auditioned for the same day but, as they both shoot tomorrow (Thursday), I had to let one go. Nothing against industrials or the people who cast me -- it just came down to a choice between a half-day's session fee under AFTRA, or a full day under SAG (with travel, residuals, credit toward health benefits, etc.)


The shoot is actually scheduled for Thursday night, starting at 8:00pm and running into the wee hours. The client's put me up in a downtown hotel with free high-speed Internet access (yay!) and a suggestion that I sleep away as much of tomorrow as possible. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first out-of-town overnighter I've had since I was in "The Big Show" (more on that later) and, while this is something of a come-down, I have to say that I was not only missing it but I actually think I like this set-up better -- i.e., a business-oriented hotel versus something 4-star, driving my own car (even if it's a rental) versus being chauffeured in a limo, free Internet versus a swimming pool, etc.

And, of course, I'm looking forward to working tomorrow night.

Monday, April 25, 2005

New Show

So it turns out that the last-minute audition for that paying theatre gig came through for me. I got the call over the weekend, and our first read-through is this coming weekend. It's kind of odd — I'm in that stage of "what have I committed to?" that follows casting and precedes actual rehearsals.

Apparently only 2 people were seen for my role, which is a pretty major character. I arrived early at the audition and, since the director did too, he saw me before my appointed time. I felt like it went pretty well — I maybe talked too much, but the writer/director somehow had the mistaken impression that I was primarily an improv actor, and I felt like I needed to set the record straight. Then I go to leave, and who should walk in the door but a very well-known Chicago actor. By "well-known" I mean someone who has name recognition within Chicago from appearances at Steppenwolf, Second City, Goodman, one-man shows, and/or multiple Jeff awards. (This, in fact, perfectly describes the actor who vacated the role we were auditioning for.) So I figured I was sunk.

Well, for all I know, I was. The part may have been offered to this other guy first, but he turned it down. Regardless, the role is mine now, so I guess my evenings are taken now through July.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Funny How Things Work Sometimes

So I get a call from my agent yesterday, telling me I have a callback for the Regional Bank commercial and, simultaneously, placing me on "first refusal." Basically, the client is saying they tentatively want to book me before they even see the callback. I think that's the first time this has ever happened to me, and I'd be flattered if I wasn't actually pretty sure that all it really means is that the client is covering their bases -- there are probably multiple people under "first refusal" with me.

Regardless, I go into the callback today and get the lay of the land. Callbacks are usually an opportunity for the client to narrow down their casting choices, and for the director to see if they can work with the talent. Only the director was there and, all things considered, it went fairly well, but the thing that stuck out to me was the director asking me to comb my hair because, with my bad dye job, he and the client both thought it looked like it could be a toupee.

Kind of ironic that a mistake on my part that would normally limit my employability is possibly working to my favor in this case.

Then, immediately following that callback, I had an audition in the same office for an industrial. I read twice, the second read being better, but the shoot dates conflict with the shoot dates for the commercial spot. Normally, I'd think I was sitting pretty, thinking I'd probably be shooting SOMEthing soon, but Murphy's Law says that what'll probably happen is that neither gig will cast me. We'll see...

I also got a call today from a playwright/director who is looking to cast a replacement for a cast-member friend who isn't available to do a summer run of this guy's play. So I've got a cold reading audition for a paying theatre gig tomorrow.

Monday, April 18, 2005

See Spot Run

I found out today and over the weekend from friends and family who are living in a particular state that one of my regional spots is running again. My agent told me back in January that the client wanted to resurrect this particular spot (after having let it lapse for 8 months or so) but I had no confirmation it was running until now. Kind of a funny spot, too, so I'm happy.

But, of course, exposure is a double-edged sword.

For those who don't know, acting in commercials is one of the few jobs where the better you do, the less you're wanted. Sounds counterintuitive, I know, but look at it this way: If you were the manufacturer of, say, a popular soft drink, would you want the actor who played Mr. Whipple as your pitchman? (Provided, of course, you remember who Mr. Whipple was.) That's why, except for the Celebrity Spokesperson genre, most advertisers want "complete unknowns" for their spots. That's also why, for all the fun-verging-on-abuse that's poked at "high-priced actors" for supposedly reaping huge windfalls from commercial residuals, the system is actually based on fairness. Speaking as one who has, a few times, received national exposure in a commercial and then suffered through months of being unemployable (including one stretch of more than a year), I can verify that the "huge windfall" barely seems like adequate compensation for one who values work above fame (and let's face it -- being Mr. Whipple barely qualifies as "notoriety" let alone "fame").

So anyway, as I was saying, my spot is running again and I hope I'm not screwed. My character in this particular commercial is humorous, but ever so slightly creepy, and I can just imagine Bad Things happening if other advertisers take note.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

"Real" Person

Had an on-camera audition yesterday for Regional Bank commercial. Went pretty well, although I can't help but wonder why it is so many directors harp on wanting "real people". I think what they're usually indicating by saying that is they don't want anyone overacting and, basically, they want the characters to be believable. Unfortunately, what often happens is the client gets it into their head that they can only get a "real" feel by casting non-actors.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that some people really can just walk in off the street and work 8 hours on the set of a commercial shoot, doing take after take, covered from all angles and distances, and come off believably. But, honestly, most people can't. I'd even say it's a large majority. I don't mean to put actors in a position that's more exalted than they/we deserve -- really, I don't -- but credit needs to be given where it's due. Actors earn their keep by taking someone else's words, or idea for a character, and executing them believably.

Anyway, I hope this Regional Bank got enough "real" people, so they'll stop asking for that. Perhaps next time they can specify "subtle" if they want something underplayed -- that's language we can work with better.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Bad Hair Week

Voiceover audition today at a CD's (casting director's) office. I was the youngest guy in the waiting room, but still felt old. Partly it was because the spot was for a Drug That Treats An Embarrassing Condition That Generally Doesn't Afflict The Young And Fit, but it was partly also that I knew everyone in the room by name and knew how much grayer they'd gotten in the 8 or 9 years that I've been at this. (sigh...)

The feeling of premature age was no doubt accented by the fact that I tried to even out my salt-and-pepper earlier this week but left the color in too damn long and ended up looking like someone 10 years older who wants people to think he's 20 years younger. Today I shampooed with Dawn dishwashing detergent, just to lighten up the color as much as possible. (Great lather, by the way, but it leaves you with the itchiest scalp you've ever had.)

Aside from today's audition (which I'm sure was a wash), I've had stabs this week at Ice Cream Store Chain, Eastern Amusement Park, and at least one other I'm forgetting. Felt good about these, which were held in my agents' office, but half the fun was really just hanging around friends who (today excepted) are at the top of their game and, perhaps because of this, are just generally fun to be around. We have at least two SNL alums, a host of Second City alums, and a buttload of folks who, like me, went through the Chicago improv scene as performers in their own right. It's like, really difficult to go into that office and not find yourself laughing at some point.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Jewtopia Morning After

Beats the hell outta me why I thought it was at the Apollo on Lincoln. I got there 20 minutes in advance, but there was no sign on the marquee or anywhere indicating the show I wanted was there. The look on the face of the girl in the box office was priceless, though, when I asked her, "Where is Jewtopia?" I could tell she was trying to work out whether I was an anti-Semite for a moment (at which point I realized how my question sounded), and then -- without taking her eyes off me -- she evenly said, "I don't know. Guys? (to her fellow box office personnel) Where is Jewtopia?"

"Is it a show?"

"Yes, it's in previews," I replied.

"Where's it playing?"

I paused a moment, waiting for them to realize they'd come full circle to the original question, but they didn't get it, so I said, "I thought it was at the Apollo."

"It's not."

"Okay, back to my original question, do you know where it is playing, or," I added helpfully, "is there a way you can find out?"

So this fella opens up a pamphlet, skims it for a moment, then tells me it's at the Mercury Theatre. Fortunately, the Mercury isn't too terribly far away, so I go tearing out of there and race on over.

In a nutshell, my friend was great in the role, but the show itself is a niche production. It's one of those shows like Shear Madness, Tony and Tina's Wedding, or Vampire Lesbians of Sodom that will probably run forever because it serves a specific audience that self-perpetuates to a certain extent, but it's not what I would call "great theatre". Truthfully, the moments I laughed at most were character-driven moments the actors had brought to the table, but rarely did I find myself laughing at anything in the script.

But then, what do I know? I'm just a goy.

04/08/05 Auditions

Voiceover auditions today for Ice Cream Company, as well as Cell Phone Company. Both went well, two takes each.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


Spent all morning at the DMV, dealing with Bureaucrats From Hell, so I'm looking forward to kicking back tonight at a preview for "Jewtopia" at the Apollo Theatre on Lincoln. A good friend and sometime business partner is in the show, and it's his first full-fledged Equity gig, so I'm happy for him. Expecting to go out for a beer afterward and talk about his experiences rehearsing in NYC, putting it up here in Chicago, followed by some catch-up regarding our nascent theatre company.