Archive for television

Stand-In the Place Where You Aren’t.

Posted in Acting, actor, Life, Television, Theatre with tags , , , , , on August 11, 2011 by actingchick

Sometimes things come out of the blue.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not.  Luckily the call I got last week was of the good variety. The phone rang at 5:30 on a Friday evening.  I had a voicemail from background casting for the new NBC series Grimm.  They were looking for a stand-in for three days.  I freaked out, called back and said yes, even though I hadn’t gotten permission from work for the time off.  I figured I’d work it out somehow, and my job has always been very accommodating.  However, this time period fell right in the middle of one of the two deadlines that I have all month.

The days I would be working would be Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, so I would go to my day job on Monday and Wednesday.  Seems pretty simple except that this show is shooting in Portland, Oregon.  I live in Seattle.  It’s a three hour and smidge drive when there isn’t traffic, and when there is, well, let’s just say it isn’t pretty.  I also have to have a place to spend the night.

Luckily for me, my girlfriend has family down in Vancouver, WA area, just across the border from Portland.  And luckily for me her cousin happened to be up visiting us, so I could ask her if I could stay at her place.  She gracefully said yes, so there was one hurdle down.  Next, getting approval for time off.

Of course I found this out on Friday at 5:30 after everyone (including me) had gone home.  My boss(es) weren’t there, although I did try calling in hopes of catching someone.  Then I thought, hey, they are workaholic types and will probably be coming in on the weekend, so I sent an email and begged for the time off.  Just as I hoped I got a reply, at 9:30 Friday night.  People, you work too much, but I appreciate it!

Unfortunately, the email said, this probably won’t be a problem, but there is this meeting on Tuesday (that no one told me about) so you have to check with the big boss to see if it’s OK.  So at this point, I’m a nervous wreck because I told the Grimm guy that I’d do it, yet what if my boss said no, which I intellectually couldn’t imagine, and yet who knows.  She is a new boss to us, only been here a little over a month.  Who knows what she is capable of.  She seems nice, but…

I’m a worrier by nature.  I try and override it, or more accurately supress it, but I spent most of the weekend freaking out, until I got an email from the big boss saying sure I can go.  Yeah!

Monday I went to work trying to get my stuff done as much as I could. The Grimm guy, whose name is Matt, called to confirm.  He’d send me the call time for the next day later.  When he said later, I thought he meant around the afternoon or so.  So when around 6:30pm I hadn’t heard anything I called to see what was up.  Matt patiently told me he’d get the schedule to me when he got it, but he was still waiting for it.

Now if the call time is 6am, and I have a three hour drive, it means I would have to leave at 3:00 in the morning to get there.  If the call is at noon, then I could leave in the morning.  So when I was supposed to be there would be helpful in my planning.  By 7:30 I still hadn’t heard anything, so I decided to drive down to Portland and spend the night at my girfriend’s cousin’s house.  That way if the call was early morning, I could just get up and go and have a much shorter drive.

When I had talked to Matt earlier, I had also tried to get wardrobe requirements out of him.  As an extra, which I have been before, you are required to bring clothes with you.  What the scene is will determine the types of clothes you bring.  If it’s in an office, you would bring work clothes, or if it is in the forest you might bring things you would wear camping.  Often there are requirements to wear certain colors, or not others. So I wanted to know what to bring, and asked him, but he said they would give me some “color cover” which, I didn’t know what that mean, but took to mean wearing my regular clothes would be fine.

So off to Portland I go.  Luckily most of rush hour traffic is done, and I only have a slight slowdown near Tacoma.  I’m cruising along, about an hour from my sleeping destination, when the phone goes off.  I have a text.  Call times are in check your email.  So I get to a rest stop, pull over and check my email.  Call time is 12:45 pm.  I could have stayed at home and slept in my own bed.  Oh well.

So in all this you might wonder about the cost-benefit analysis.  I’m going to drive three hours each way, spend a significant amount of money on gas, impose upon relatives, make some people at work follow-up on things that didn’t quite get done (through no fault of my own), and use up three days of my vacation time, which I’m pathetically low on, and this will just about clean me out.  All for $9.50 an hour.  Yep $9.50 an hour.  Welcome to the world of the non-union stand-in and extras work.  Actually this is pretty good money since the extras only make $8.50 an hour. And I’m guaranteed 8 hours whether I work it or not.

Of course I’ll be learning lots and lots of stuff.  This is a real set,  network TV.  The major leagues as it were, so for that alone it’s worth the time and effort I think.  Probably by the time I factor in my travel expenses, and subtract my wages, I’ll break about even.   But as those Mastercard commercials point out, some experiences are priceless.

Apr 13 – Acting for the Camera

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , on April 13, 2010 by actingchick

So I’ve been a little remiss in my blog updating, mostly because not much has been happening on the acting front these days, that is until recently.  Nothing super exciting, I haven’t gotten any great acting gigs, but at least these things are acting related and will hopefully further my career.

First of all I got new headshots.  I chopped my hair off a few weeks ago, and adding to that the fact I’ve lost some weight, I don’t really look much like my old headshots.  And since you are supposed to look like your headshot (or your headshot is supposed to look like you) to avoid pissing of the casting directors when you walk in the door, I had to get new ones taken.

I went back to Mark Brennan.  I think he does good work.  My only complaint is that my headshots look like me.  I know there supposed to, but somehow I keep hoping that I will suddenly get 25% more attractive, and my hair will get thicker, and my nose will get, well I don’t know, less like my nose I guess.  But those are my hang-ups and Mark does make me look pretty good.

The second thing I have done is to take a more  in-depth Acting for the Camera class.  This time from Tony Doupe, who was recommended by Jodi Rothfield, whose one day class Auditioning for the Camera I had taken and wrote about in a previous post.

I’m really liking it so for.  It is sort of an extension of Jodi’s class in that it covers some of the same material, and even more.  Tony talks about auditioning and the things you need to do for that, but the class goes further in terms of types of work you would be doing.  Industrial videos, commercials, film and television.  It’s sort of a sampler class, a little bit of this a little bit of that.

The first class we did an industrial training video.  The sort of things company’s show their employees.  Our subject happened to be sexual harassment.  We broke into pairs and were given short scenes to perform.  We were given about 20 minutes to work with our partner and to run lines.

Then Tony set up the camera and we shot the scenes.  We did multiple takes with one person in the camera view and then reset the camera so the other person was in camera.   We also brought video tapes on which our performances were recorded and we could take them home and watch them.  I don’t have a VCR at the moment so I haven’t watched it (and I’m not sure I could bring myself to do it anyway if I did).

We were also given commercials to memorize for the next class, where we had to do a walk and talk.  You see it all the time on commercials and news type segments where the host or actor is walking and telling you whatever it is they have to tell you.  I would just like to say that this is a lot harder than it looks.  A lot.

The set up was to pretend to be leaving our apartment, then “naturally” start talking to the camera, saying our commercial spiel,  as we started to walk down the hallway.  There were three points we had to hit marked out with yellow sticky notes on the floor.  At each of these points we had to pause, say some of our text, and then natural move onto the next point.

When I see these people on TV doing this now I have a lot more respect.

We practiced a cold reading like it would be in an audition circumstance.  We got a partner and a scene, had about 10 minutes to run through it and then we were up in front of the camera.  Tony directed us a bit, critiqued us a bit.  Then for the next week we were to memorize those scenes and do them as if we were doing a film or television episode. More on that later.

Overall I really like the class.  It is an interesting mix of people.  We have teenagers to people in their 50’s.  More women than men, which seems to be typical of acting classes.  Some people hadn’t done any acting before, some had done it in high school and college many years before.  In fact I am probably, with one possible exception, the most trained person there, which is an oddly incongruous feeling,  since I feel like a newbie to acting.

I like learning about camera acting, which is different from theater acting.  Not that the actual acting is so different, it’s  that you have more constraints on you when the camera is on you.  You can only move so much or you’ll be out of frame. You have to take into account how your physical actions have to be repeated the same each take to facilitate editing.  You have to know how to hit your marks and stay in your light.  You sometimes have to pretend the camera, an inanimate object made of plastic and metal, is a person you have to connect with.  It’s challenging, and fun, and challenging.  And fun.