Thursday, October 30, 2014

They loved my audition - so why didn't I book?

You go to an audition (doesn't matter if it's for TV, film, commercial, or theatre) and when you're done reading, the people in the room say things like, "That was fantastic," or "Wow, that was the best reading we've seen in a long time," or maybe, "You blew us away." They're all smiles, and gushing with enthusiasm about your audition. You walked out stoked to the max. You nailed it - and there's no doubt they're going to offer you the part, right? Except they don't. In fact neither you or your agent hear anything from them at all.

So, what's going on? How could they have been so genuinely enthusiastic about your read, and yet - not a word? Not even to tell you that it was between you and another actor, and it was a really difficult choice, but they went with the other actor because he or she is repped by the same agent as the star, or whatever. And even though you'd be unhappy about not getting the gig, at least you'd know why. But nothing?! Not a word after all that excitement?

Now here's another side to that situation. You go to another audition, and you know you sucked at it. You blew your lines (on both takes), you were wearing the totally wrong clothes, and when they gave you an adjustment on the second take, you read it flat instead of subtle. And you book it!!! Okay, you're happy - but WTF?

Note: If you've been going out on enough auditions, you've experienced both these outcomes.

If you go back to that CD at a later date for a different audition, you don't want to ask the casting director why you didn't book. First off, you're probably reading for a different session director, who wasn't at your other audition. But even if it's the same CD or SD, they're busy and don't have time to try and remember your audition and what happened. Besides, you're putting them on the spot and they may feel uncomfortable telling you why you didn't book. A professional actor just doesn't bring it up. Be glad they are calling you back and let that old audition go.

Note: If your agent or manager has a good, personal relationship with the CD, they may be able to call them and get some feedback, but don't count on it.

It would be nice if casting was always logical - you give a great read, you get the job. You give a sucky read, you don't get it. However there are so many other reasons why we get the job, or don't get it, other than just how we read at the audition. Some of the (silly, but true) reasons you didn't book are: too old, too young, too tall, too short, too blond, too dark, and on and on - you get the idea. Put the past audition behind you, and look forward to kicking butt on the next one.



Friday, October 24, 2014

What I learned from "sort of" doing nudity.

I've done two nude scenes. Well, sort of. The first time was in an indie film about 20 years ago. I say "sort of" because in the script it said that I was in bed with my girlfriend and that I was to jump out of bed when my wife caught us together and run into the bathroom to hide.

The first time I heard that I would be naked was when I got to the set that morning, but like many actors, I bit the bullet and said okay. After all, it was a funny scene and I was in pretty good shape, so why not? Which doesn't mean I wasn't feeling a little nervous about the whole thing.

So, eight hours later, when it's time to shoot the scene, I get into the bed with the actress playing my girlfriend, and remove my robe under the covers (I figured there's no reason to be running around naked any more than I had to). The camera rolls and the director calls "action!" My "wife" runs into the room with a shotgun and I leap out of bed and head for the bathroom. The director yells cut (no circumcision jokes, here) and informs me that they changed the scene so that I'll be wearing underwear. It would have been real nice if someone had told me about this change. I'm a little pissed off, but I get into my underwear and we shoot the scene again a few times.

The second time I was "sorta naked" was doing a sketch on a late night television show a few years ago. Again, nobody told me when I got the gig that I would be doing this, because they (the writers) only thought of it during the shoot. At first I said "no" but the producers convinced me to do it with two things - I would be wearing a "sock" (which is basically a special sock-like thing that goes over a man's private parts), and they would give me a large bonus (yes, that's "bonus"). So, I did the scene and it turned out really funny.

Okay, so what did I learn from these two experiences? Well, in the first one - a non- union indie, I learned that we actors are on our own (no union rules here), but that I should have asked if I could do the scene in my underwear when I was first told about it since I had not agreed to do a nude scene when I was hired. But I was new to professional acting and was intimidated. I didn't realize I had the power to say "no," especially since I had already shot a lot of my scenes and they sure as hell wouldn't have fired me and reshot every scene I was in.

As for a union project, like the TV sketch, they were in violation of the contract. SAG-AFTRA rules state that you must be informed BEFORE agreeing to do a project, that there will be nudity involved in your role. Again, this scene was the last one after several days of shooting, so I could have said no. And if it had been full nudity, I would have - but with the "sock" and yes, the extra money, I was cool with it.

If you don't feel comfortable doing something - and you haven't agreed to do it when you were hired (and that includes stunts, as well), then don't do it. However, if you agreed to do nudity when you were hired, and then changed your mind - the producers do have a right to be upset - and even fire you.

We actors need to feel proud of our work, so keep that in mind whenever you are faced with a tough decision before or after you're hired.



Thursday, October 16, 2014

How to deal with "sides."

I have an audition coming up next week and one of the things I do to prepare is to create my own version of the sides. 

Unless we have only a line or two, we always want to have the sides in our hand while we audition. I know it seems like we will look better if we don't hold them, there are at least two reasons for holding them. First, we absolutely do not want to forget a line and have to break our audition to find the sides and get our place. This is far more unprofessional than holding the sides. 

The second reason is that as much as we want to look like we have the part ready to go, that can work against us - especially if we're reading for a play. Unless, you're stepping into a role at the last minute, you are going to have several weeks of rehearsals, and you don't want to look like you have everything down pact and that audition is your final performance. 

Of course, with a commercial it's no problem because they'll have the copy hanging somewhere near the camera. 

However, if we do have to glance at our sides, we want to be able to find our place, and grab a line very quickly. Below is a copy of what I do to make sure my lines (the character of Bill) pop out at me if I have to glance at the sides. 

First off I condense the sides. That means I get rid of the stuff I don't need. Like the other person's actions (unless they affect my character), then I edit out the cue lines of the other characters, getting rid of the other character's dialogue except for their last line of two before my next line. You should have all the motivation stuff done already, so you don't need to get that from the lines during the audition.

Then I put everything in 12 pt font (I like Verdana), except for my lines which I put in 14 pt bold font. As you can see from the copy above, my lines really pop out when I need to grab them fast. To me, this is more important than covering the page with notes about when to move my arm, or what emotion to have on some particular line.



Thursday, October 9, 2014

Are you getting your full pay?

A few years ago I worked on a feature film and about nine months after I wrapped, I was called in to do some ADR work (I had to add some dialogue to my part). Okay, great - I get a nice check for an hour or so of work.

But, when the check came, it seemed a little light. I had done some ADR work a few months before, on another project, and the pay was more. Of course that was a TV show and this was a film, so maybe the pay was different.

But, just to satisfy my curiosity, I called the theatrical contracts department at SAG-AFTRA. And this is what I discovered: if the film has a regular contract (not low-budget, or student), you get a half day of pay if you are called in to do ADR work LESS than 6 months from when you wrapped. Which is what the payroll company had sent me. But - as in my case - if it's been MORE then 6 months since you worked on the film, they owe you a full day of pay for the ADR work!

I called the payroll company and they said they'd check that rule and call me back. And, about an hour later someone called me and apologized, and said they'd get another check out to me right away to make up the difference (which they did). Were they trying to cheat me? No, I don't believe so. (After all, it's not their money, they're just hired to write the checks.) The person making out the payroll just wasn't aware of that rule.

Was this a big deal? Well, yes - the difference in pay was $400.00 and that was worth making a few calls.

The lesson to me was - check your checks! Most union producers and payroll companies are honest, but every time there is a new contract negotiated between SAG-AFTRA and the producers (every 3 years), there are rules that change, so it can be difficult to keep up (although the payroll companies should try to be up-to-date on all the rules that affect payments).

And don't worry - no one is going to "blacklist" you for trying to get what's owed you (and hey, if that producer won't hire you again, ask yourself - do you really want to work for someone who doesn't pay you what you're owed?).

Like I said, most professional people in this business are honest, but mistakes happen. And if you think this has happened to you, it's probably best to call the contracts department at SAG-AFTRA rather than your agent, who may also not be up on all the rules and regulations of a contract. 



Friday, October 3, 2014

Do you like your roles?

Well another week, another audition. A new Comedy Central show and another weird character. This seems to be my calling - to play weird, offbeat, or grungy roles. which is cool - they are the roles that are often remembered. I'm not knocking actors who play the straight roles like doctors, lawyers, etc., or the roles that give important information - called exposition roles. These are important parts because they give us information that we need in order to advance the story. But I like the more offbeat stuff - like playing the Baker on Eagleheart, or my latest role of The Undertaker on Westworld.

Here's a link if you want to see a scene with me as The Baker:

Eagleheart - The Baker

We actors sometimes have to make a choice in our careers between who we see ourselves as, and who others - especially casting directors, agents, directors, and producers - see us as. Are you the funny guy who gets cast as the angry guy? Maybe you see yourself as a leading young lady, but keep getting called in to play the nerdy best friend.

So what do you do? Well, you can try and change the way people see you by doing the type of theatre roles that are more how you see yourself, and making your own videos where you play the type of characters you see yourself as and hope that others will come around and see you as that as well.

Or you can be happy that you are being called in and cast and are able to support yourself as a performer. I write and play songs, but no one's paying me to do that. However, the money I make doing my "weird" roles allows me to spend time on my songs. But I'm also lucky because I really like performing most of the roles in which I'm cast.

You can always do your own stuff on the side. For example, if you're the funny guy who is cast in dramatic roles, go to comedy clubs and do stand-up. Charlize Theron, known for her dramatic roles, has been doing comedy sketches on Funny or Die to show her comedic side. Will that get her cast in a comedy film? Maybe, maybe not, but at least she gets to express her funny side.

There's enough to deal with in our acting careers without being unhappy with the type of parts we get to play. You have choices and ways to fulfill your inner spirit. So embrace the paid work and give it your all, and then go do some unpaid work that feeds your soul.