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July 27 – Back in the Saddle

Posted in Uncategorized on July 27, 2011 by actingchick

I haven’t posted in over a year.  It’s not that I’ve not been doing things, it’s just that I’ve not felt it was interesting enough to write about.  Or maybe it is, but I’m just lazy.

In either case, I’m recommitting to the acting blog as a way to motivate me to get back up and ride the horse.   The horse didn’t throw me off.  I just got off to get a bite to eat and it wandered away.

I’ve signed up for a voice over coaching session this Friday, so I will next post about that.  And I will put a post up about my Leverage episode, but I haven’t actually seen it yet since I don’t have cable, and I have to wait until TNT puts the episode up on the web.

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Feb 21 – Extra. Extra. Read all about it.

Posted in Acting, actor, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2010 by actingchick

So you wanna be in pictures?  Well, I finally got my chance yesterday as I started out on the bottom rung of the acting ladder.  Yes, I had my first paying gig as an Extra.

I answered a posting from Foreground Background looking for extras for a film to be shot in Washington state under the working title of  “Late Autumn“. I submitted my headshot and resume, and was surprised when I got a call back a few weeks later saying they’d like to book me to be a prisoner for a prison scene.  I said yes.

Not only would I get to be a prisoner, but I would actually get to go to Twin Rivers Correctional Complex  in Monroe.  I’d be on the Inside in the Big House.  I had to give information, so they could do a background check on me and everything.

The day for my shoot finally came after some delays due to productions issues of some sort.  The production was kindly offering a shuttle up to the prison which is about 30 miles outside of Seattle, or you could drive yourself. I opted for the bus ride.  I figured then I wouldn’t have to worry about getting lost, which I normally do.

Call time to catch the bus was 6:00am.  I’d been up a little to late the night before at a dinner party, and was working on only 4.5 hours of sleep when the alarm went off at 5am.

I crawled out of bed and into the shower, but didn’t wash my hair, because it was specifically requested by the hair and makeup people.  Apparently slightly dirty hair is easier to style.  Who knew?

I also had to apply my own makeup.  Just foundation and mascara, but those who know me, know that is stretching my abilities to the breaking point, but I managed.  They said the makeup people would add whatever else they needed on set.

You know how you get up extra early, to make sure you get somewhere on time, and then somehow time drifts away, and you end up leaving the house 5 minutes late?  Well, that happened to me.  I ended up rushing to the location trying to read the map I was provided while driving.  The bus was to leave Magnuson Park at 6:00.  I got to the park, which is an old retired naval base and quite large.  I made one wrong turn, but realized it quickly when the road dead-ended.  I flipped around found the right road, and zoomed down to the rendezvous point by one of the old hangers.

The were a number of cars parked there, along with two tour buses.  There was one car parked with headlights on, and I could make out a woman talking on her cell phone.  I thought, OK I made it.  I looked at my cell phone.  It was 6:00am exactly.  I always aim to get somewhere 10 minutes early.  Not this time, but at least I wasn’t technically late.

I looked around and realized I didn’t see anyone else.  I figured maybe they are in the building, so I got out of the car to see if there was a door to go in.  As I walked past the car with the headlights on, it shot off across the parking lot and away down the road.  I was alone next to the massive airplane hangar.  I didn’t see a door, or anyone. It  was dark and quiet. Then I looked over at the tour buses.  I saw heads in the windows.  Oh, they are just sitting on the bus waiting with the lights off.  I headed over.  As I got closer I realized the people were mannequins.   I was alone.  There was no one else there.

Luckily, Denise Gibbs from Foreground Background had called me the day before, so her number was in my phone.  I called her.  Um, yeah, I think I’m in the right place, but no one is here.

Let me call someone one I’ll call you back.

OK.

I wait in the dark.  The phone rings.

The bus, which was actually a van, left without you.

Oh.

Let me call someone and I’ll call you back.

OK.  I sat in the dark.  The phone rings again.

So can you drive yourself up there to Monroe?

Yes, but I didn’t bring the directions, since I was taking the bus.

Denise kindly gave me the directions, and said if I got lost to call her, she help me out.  I drove off frantically, feeling bad about missing the bus and not being professional, but then again, I was technically on time.  I went back and forth as I tried to drive fast, but not too fast for fear of getting pulled over and delayed even more.

I made it up to Monroe, found the prison after my obligatory wrong turn.  I pulled into the parking lot after checking in at the metal squawk box.  There were several people who were dressed like film crew (black jeans and shirts, and a little bit scruffy) heading in one direction.  I followed them figuring they were going where I need to go.

I tried to find someone who looked like the person I should report to.  There were people unloading trucks and carrying things.  Then I saw her, someone with a headset on.  People with radios sticking out of their ears tend to know things, or know who knows things.  I walked up to her.  She asked if I was Courtney.  I said, no and gave her my name.  She said, oh good.  She was the Extra Wrangler for the day.  I’m bad with names, but I think her name was Darcy.  I had found the right person right off the bat.  Something was finally going right.

She pointed me over to a small tent structure.

That’s the Extras Tent.

Is there a bathroom tent? I asked

She pointed to a trailer.  I relieved my stressed out bladder and headed into the tent.  There was propane heater going inside, since it was about 36 degrees outside.  There were some others in there already, the other extras.

Darcy reappeared to escort me off to the costume trailer.  I went inside.  There was Gerard, who I had met the day before at my wardrobe fitting.  He was harried and crisply gave me part of my uniform.  I had been changed from a prisoner to a guard.  I got dark navy polyester pants, a black t-shirt, and a pair of HUGE combat boots.  My overshirt was in the process of having my law enforcement patches sewn on it, so i just stood in the corner of the trailer and waited.

Gerard went about fitting the other prisoners into their orange jump suits.  They were led back into the cold once they were fitted.  I got to stay in the trailer, which probably was only about 10 degrees warmer than outside, so I wasn’t sure who was luckier, since they had the heater.

The prop guy game and fitted me for a belt, the kind with all the attachments for handcuffs, keys, and radio, and then went on his way.  Then suddenly there was a problem.  The other guard, the one who gets to talk, her pants don’t fit.  They demand my pants.  I take them off.  I get another pair which are a little big, but I’m fine with it since the other pair was a little small.  Apparently they fit the other guard, and crisis averted, the wardrobe crew continues on with their assigned tasks, and I keep waiting for my shirt to get its patches.

Finally the patches are done.  I put the shirt on.  Then I get pinned with a shiny star-pointed badge.  I get a coat to put on over my uniform, and am ushered back out to the Extra’s tent to wait.  And wait.

Darcy comes and takes me to another woman, who is standing out between some trailers.  Now I’m waiting outside, away from the heater.  It’s very cold.  Apparently we are waiting to pick up the other guard from her trailer.  She talks so she gets to have a trailer.  How nice for her.

Eventually we get rounded up and head over to the prison.  We have to be let in through a big gate in a 20′ high chain link fence frosted at the top with razor wire.   We have to stop at a guard house where we turn over our ID’s and get visitor badges to wear.  Then its through another gate, under they eyes of the guards in the tall watchtower.  A corrections officer escorts us up to the prison block we are shooting in.

Inside the place is a hive of crew-bees.  There are people standing around, people moving things, people talking to each other.  I’m led to a cell.  I look around, since I figure (hopefully) this is the only time I’m going to be in a real prison cell.  There are two bunks, a cold looking stainless steel toilet, and a skylight that shows a bit of the sky if you happen to be lying on the top bunk. I imagine the top bunk is the prime real estate.

Also inside is the prop guy I met before.  He has the belt he tried on me earlier, but now apparently it is going to the guard who talks.  Damn her.  Not only does she get to say lines, she gets a trailer, my pants, and now my belt.

The prop guy hands me another belt, but it is too small.  Then he hands me another, it’s kind of ratty, but it fits.  He gives me handcuffs to put in the handcuff thingy, and I get a radio with a separate microphone attached by a coiled wire that’s clipped onto my shoulder.  I was ready to go.

Back out into the cell block, I’m led down to my spot.  Apparently I’m going to be sitting in the “control room” for the cell block.   A room with a panoramic view of the cell block behind its thick bullet proof glass. This is where the buttons are to open/close the cell doors, the outside doors.  Plus  there are ventilation controls, the sound system (there are microphones all over the place, so you can listen in on the convict conversation, and surveillance camera monitors.  Also a handy bathroom, which I imagine would come in handy in case there is a prison riot.  That way you don’t have to leave the safety of your bullet proof enclosure to go potty.

More waiting around as they set up the shot.   I stand around trying to figure out who the director is, but I can’t tell.  I figure it’s best to know so I can stay out of his way.  I see the star Tang Wei in her orange jumpsuit, she gets led off to her cell.

The shot is going to be tracking behind the guard as she walks through one wing of the cell block, past me in the control room, then into the other wing that has the cell that Tang Wei is in.  Then the guard will put a key in the cell door to open it, and says “Prisoner 8234 report to the Sargent’s office”.  For that one line, she gets over twice as much money as me, a trailer, my pants, and my belt.  I do have to say she did look more like a prison guard than I did, so I guess I should just be happy I got the part I did.

As the guard passes me she gives me a wave and a nod and a slight smile.  The first time through rehearsal this surprised me, so I did what I thought I would do naturally, which is nod and give a smile back.  But I wondered was this what they wanted?  Is this a mean prison with evil guards, should I scowl more.  Should I wave back?  No one came to direct me, so I went with the nod and slight smile back.  I figured if they didn’t like it they’d tell me to do something else.

No one did.  The only thing the corrected on me was to put my hair in a pony tail, and tell me to sit down, which I was glad for, since there was a bar across the window right at the level of my face.  I though, great, I’m going to be this body with my head covered over by a bar, assuming I’m not cut out in the first place.

There was a real corrections officer with me during rehearsal and he was answering questions and opening doors to let people in and out.  In the shot we were doing the cell door is opened by the guard with a key, but this isn’t really how the cells open.  They normally open by pushing a button in the control room.  So they faked the cell opening with keys, and then pushing the open button in the control room.

Since I was sitting at the control panel as the guard walked by the corrections officer suggested that I could just push the buttons, since he wasn’t supposed to be in the shot.  I was like sure, I can do that.  Gives me something to do.  So they let me.  Someone behind the camera with a radio on would say door at the right time to someone standing next to me with a radio on, and then I would hit the door button.  The director would yell cut.  Then I’d close the door to the cell for the next take.

This was a step in fulfilling my dream of being Gary Jones, the actor who plays Walter Harriman, the  guy on Stargate SG-1 who “operates” the stargate.    Why do I want to be Gary Jones.  There is a guy who got regular work.  He was in 108 of 200+ episodes, plus a few of the movies and crossovers to the other Stargate series.  A minor character sure, but paid and fed, and since he talked, I imagine he got his own trailer.  And I bet no one took his pants.

There is a funny scene in an episode where Walter explains his job.  Here.  And there is a funny scene on one of the DVD extra features where Gary Jones the actor explains his technique for pretending he was working the equipment and pushing buttons, and how he couldn’t actually type on the keyboard because of the noise, so he would pretend type, and then reach for something.  Pretend type and reach. This may not sound exciting, but I bet it is more fun than putting numbers into spreadsheets and filing.

My second scene of the day was being out in the “yard” escorting a prisoner in handcuffs.  I doubt anyone will see me, since the camera was on the inside of the cell block, focused on the star, who was standing in front of a window looking out into the yard.  They put fake bars over the window.  Then about 50 feet out from that they had me and the prisoner crossing, plus some other prisoners scattered about.  Just window dressing.

The most amusing part of this scene is that the “yard” is really just a a lawn between the two cell blocks.  The cell block we were not filming in was in use, and full of prisoners, who also happened to be mostly sex offenders according to one of the officers.  So they advised us not to pay them any attention to avoid getting them worked up and rowdy.  They were hooting and hollering as it was, playing music, offering us cigarettes to dance for them, yelling Action and Cut! a thousand times.  Probably we were the most exciting thing they had seen in a long time.

If you add up my entire amount of time on screen between the two scenes, I imagine it will add up to about 3.5 seconds.  Still you have to start somewhere I suppose.

May 20 – Light at the End of the Tunnel

Posted in Uncategorized on May 20, 2009 by actingchick

tunnel

So we have started on our final scenes for class.  This is it, we are nearing the end, ambling towards the stagelights at the end of the tunnel.  Twelve classes left and then we are released like baby turtles on the beach, to crawl out of our shells and see if we can make it to the ocean without becoming  dinner.

The scene I am working on with my partner is from Edward Albee’s The Marriage Play.  To sum up the story: Man suffering a mid-life crisis, after having a revelation at his desk, comes home from work in the middle of the day, and tells his wife of thirty years that he is leaving her.  Let us just  say that she doesn’t take it all that well.

Lots of verbal sparring, similar to what goes on in Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but without the other couple.  There is a knock down drag out fight in the middle of our scene, which will be interesting to see how we pull that off.  I’ve had some stage combat experience, but my partner hasn’t.

Anyway we started our working reading last night.  Just running through the lines, with Robin stopping us to ask questions, about why we were doing or saying whatever we were doing or saying.  It was good.  I went early to watch some of the other people run through their scenes, which helped me feel more comfortable with the process when our time came.

There is so much to learn about a role, especially something complex like this.  Luckily Robin is there to help point things out to us.  It makes me wonder what we are going to do without here when this is all over.

Oct 9 – On and on and on.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 13, 2008 by actingchick

Things are evolving.  When I last posted I was explaining the Meisner Repitition exercise to you.  The observing of your partner, the noting of a characteristic.  The saying of the characteristic over and over and over and over again, until some other characteristic or attribute pops to the forefront of consciousness, starting the cycle one again.

We started with simple statements, like “nose”, moved to “big nose”  then to complete sentences such as, “You have a big nose.”  Then we started noting emotions and the physical expression of those emotions, known as “behavior.”  This would be like “You are offended that I said you have a big nose.”  Often this would just be shortened to “You are offended,” for simplicity.  The person with the big nose would say from their point of view, “I am offended,” and this would repeat until someone noticed another behavior.  And as noted before, the person can change the statement if it is not true for them.

Now we get to also take our response to what someone has said to us, and then put the it back on them.  It’s probably just easier to give an example of what this means.

Bob: You have a big nose.
Alice: I have a big nose.
Bob: You are offended.
Alice: You offended me.
Bob: I offended you.
Alice: You offended me.
Bob: I offended you.
Alice: Your annoying me.
Bob: I’m annoying you.
Alice: You’re annoying me.
Bob: You’re boring me.
Alice: I’m boring you….

It goes on pretty much until some outside force stops it.  When we are in class, it is Robin, and when we are doing our practice outside of class it is generally when our alloted half hour is up,  when we spill our coffee haus beverage into our lap, or some other distraction breaks the flow.

You might be thinking to yourself, why are we doing this?  What is the point?  What do you learn?

These are all good questions, and when I figure it out I will let you know.

Dec 3 – Taking it easy and down the road.

Posted in Uncategorized on December 4, 2007 by actingchick


This quarter is almost over. Clown has wrapped up, and I have only two more Stage Combat classes. I heard we get to start dagger next class, so I am looking forward to that.

With Stage Combat over on the 15th I should have a month off from school. On the one hand that is a nice thing to have a little break and some home time. My girlfriend is infinitely patient with my schedule, but she likes to see me now and again. On the other hand, I am anxious to get going. I could do with 2 weeks instead of a month, but I have no say.

There are four classes I want to take next quarter. Actually there are six, but I can’t do them all as some of them are at the same time. But it is possible for me two swing the four classes depending on a few factors, the main one being money. But hopefully i will be getting a little extra cash into the coffers soon, but I don’t want to count my chickens ahead of time.

Still, assuming that I do get the money (or break down and use the plastic) the four classes I want to take are: Stage Combat (have to continue with this to get certified), Auditioning (helpful if I plan to audition), Voice (I really need this, trust me), and Accents (eets jus fo’ fun gov’nor).

The classes start and end at different times, so I would only actually be in all four classes for about a week and a half. But that week and half I would be in class every night. And of course in that week also happens to be my girlfriend’s birthday. I better start buttering her up now.

So that’s my plan for now. I guess we will see how that plays out in the next few weeks or so. My other dilemma is what am I going to write about while I am on break. My life is fairly boring. I guess I will just have to see if I can make it more interesting.

Nov 26 – I can’t drive 55.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 26, 2007 by actingchick


Back from the Turkey Day holiday and my visit to Gluttonville and Slothtown. I didn’t have any acting classes this weekend due to the holiday, which was actually kind of nice. A chance to relax on the weekend for once.

Still, I am looking forward to going back to clown class on Wednesday. It is the last clown class. And then I should have Stage Combat for another two weeks or so, and then I am on break. What am I going to do with myself?

Last clown class we did some more warm up exercises, which I can remember exactly due to senses dulled by overeating. Then we went on to more of Three Clowns on a Bench Doing Nothing. We all were low energy. I was still getting over my cold. We went up, we fizzled out, we sat down.

My next time up I vowed to be more energetic. The hard thing I found was getting a response from my partners. Not that they weren’t trying their little clown hearts out as well, but it felt like we were not on the same wavelength to me.

The idea is we sit there waiting for something to happen, and then when we get a proposal of some sort, we try and follow the thread. I felt like I proposed things and no one picked up on them. I felt like I was tossing dead pigeons in the air. Fly. Be Free…

Thunk.

My partners probably felt similarly. Especially the first time up. Oy, that was a painful go. The second time I tried to make myself and my proposals clearer so that someone would notice. Hey, hey, look at me.

We finally got something going. Something really stupid, but that’s clowns for you. Then I got too big. I dumped one of my partners on the floor (don’t worry she let me). In clown reality that was a serious assault that came out of nowhere. It’s not that I couldn’t dump her on the ground, but it was that I did it without enough build up.

Sort of like going from zero to sixty without the speed build up in between. I went from about 15 mph to 60 instantaneously. Bam! Even if 16 to 59 mph had taken a few seconds, the build up would have been visible and then the 60 mph dumping off the bench would have made more sense. Not a horrible mistake, but an interesting one.

Nov 21 – Just say No.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2007 by actingchick


It’s the penultimate clown class tonight. We have this weekend off and then next Wednesday is the last one. What am I going to do? What am I going to complain/write about?

Last class was really quite fun, even considering I was in the middle of a cold, and my nose was full of snot, and my energy level was running about 40% of its already low level. I guess this is the one time I didn’t mind wearing the clown nose. Normally it is hard to breathe through, but since I couldn’t breathe any way, it really wasn’t an impediment. Plus it helped keep the snot from running down my face.

We did our last element of our Element Embodying Exercises. Air. We gusted, breezed, and whirlwinded ourselves around the room for a while, slowly adding more human elements in. Then George asked us what element we thought was most dominant in our clown. I think its Air for ol’ Smarly. There is quite a bit of Earth in there too I think. Heaven and Earth.

We did a fun exercise after that where we were just three clowns sitting on a bench doing nothing. We self-selected our groups of three, went up, put on the nose, came out and sat down on a bench just big enough for three clowns to sit side by side.

George made us sit there waiting until we actually were doing nothing, and then let us go. It was funny how all the quirky mayhem that ended up developing started from nothing. There was no preconceived plan, there was no trick to do, nothing to think about. Just three clowns sitting on a bench doing nothing.

But it is hard to sit still, especially for a clown. Soon enough someone would start twitching and fidgeting. Then another clown would react to that, and that would cause some other reaction, until things spiraled out of control, or they died energetically and then George would tell us to go, and the next group would come up.

The first time I was up I was sitting on the end of the bench in Clown Position 1. We sat for a bit, and then the middle clown (Position 2), turned to me and said “Soup” in his Ukrainian Clown accent. I looked at him like he was a freak and scooted a little further away from him. Clown 2 kept saying “Soup” and eventually roped Clown 3 into saying soup. Then they were both saying soup at me. I thought they were weird and scooted further away.

The kept saying soup as if they wanted me to say soup, but I didn’t want to say soup. It was like a 70’s after school special. There I was on the school playground and the bad kids come up and offer me drugs. No, no, I don’t want your drugs. Yes, yes. Try it. Just try it. Soup. Soup. Soup.

NO!

I was barely on the bench at this point, really only being held on by Clown 2 as he tried to pull me back and make me say soup.

No.

I was weakening. Maybe I should just say soup and get it over with. Then they would leave me alone. I tried, but no sound would come out. Ssss….sssooooo…No.

Soup!

Ssss…soooouu….No.

SOUP!

sssss….ssooo…..sooooo….No.

Finally George told us to stop. I had survived without saying soup. The teacher watching the recess came over and shooed the bad kids away.

Whew!

The second up was funny but different. I was in the middle this time. At some point Clown 3 ended up on the floor, and then I was squished between Clown 1 and 3 as they fought, and then I ended up on the floor. I have no idea.

All I can say is it was fun.