It has been about 10 days since my last blog post; and just two weeks since we arrived in LA.
For days now I’ve been navigating the LA freeways, interpreting the every-changing parking rules of Hollywood (street-cleaning on Mondays AND Tuesdays!?!), auditioning, taking classes, seeing shows, printing head shots and meeting with agents. In short, I’m starting to do the Actor-in-LA-Thing… The Thing.
As I write this, I’m finding it rather difficult to discuss the nuances and specifics of The Thing as I’m experience it. Frankly, it’s a trick to even tell you why discussing The Thing publicly is a difficult thing to explain… publicly.
Something happens when you make The Thing known. Other actors can immediately become smug or self-conscious comparing their Thing to yours. Friends and family who are not in the business can misinterpret an "audition for Comedy Central" as a "job on Comedy Central” - breaking their hearts (and yours all over again) with the mistake.
It is the same reason, I suspect, that I have looked down the barrel of Facebook with some apprehension the past week. I wanted many times to make the casual post about the audition I’m heading into, or traffic I’m expecting, or very odd Indian man who printed my head shots and told me - like a miserable old gargoyle - to leave town immediately if I ever wanted to be happy again…
The truth is The Thing is really personal, intimate, an almost-spiritual experience unique to every artist. The likelihood of ‘making it’ is so remote, that for actors who are trying it, the attempt takes on the same rituals of other desperate people who are soliciting a life-changing favor from an Intangible Deliverer. In many ways the audition room simultaneously becomes church, casino, and singles’ club.
You do this dance between (real or phony) humility, bizarre superstition (I already have a ‘lucky’ audition shirt), and constant winking and smiling…
So in the same ways that people hesitate to talk about their god or their bank account or their love life, The Thing too becomes sacred somehow. To discuss or casually post when I’m auditioning, for whom, and how it went, is too close. Too subject to questions and comparisons.
But, despite my discomfort, I’ve decided that I am going to discuss The Thing here anyway… Mostly for my mom’s sake.
Since the 25th, I began a two-week improv class at The Upright Citizens’ Brigade, I have auditioned for a web series and 10 films (shorts, features, and student-films) and I had a sit down interview with a talent agent about possible commercial representation.
I booked the web series - at least a first pitch/pilot episode. It’s called “A Conversation with Friends’ which we will shoot on Thursday Nov. 4th. The project is produced by The Young Turks, which may be familiar to those of you who consume left-leaning news and commentary. Their segments and personalities are often seen on MSNBC and Satellite Radio. ‘A Conversation with Friends’ is being described as a candid and real conversation among four individuals with varying backgrounds and perspectives. The subjects we discuss will vary but we were chosen because we were ‘interesting and opinionated’. I don’t know who the other ‘friends’ are or if we will be shooting more than one episode.
As for the films, most of them are student projects at the University of Southern California (USC), California State University (CSUN), and University of California - LA (UCLA). I have to distinguish between the schools (and the C’s despite my dyslexia) for reasons related to both navigation and etiquette. One ought not confuse the schools for reasons students of MCTC and MCAD can explain to you. As it stands, seven of the student directors (kindly) rejected me, two are pending a callback, one is pending a second callback.
The classes at The Upright Citizens’ Brigade (USC… another FUCKING ‘C’ abbreviation) are good. I began doing improv in high school, took intensive improv classes in college, performed for years with Brave New Workshop, performed in gads of interactive improvisational shows and I’ve taught improv in high schools and to corporate executives.
All of that self-inflated bullshit to say, I was still REALLY excited to take this intro-to-improv course because reviewing the basics is good for everyone. Also, it seemed like a great way to meet people in a new town and have a good time. Also, what really do I think I know about improv? The UCB says it has it’s own rules and style of improv and the class is necessary to get into their unique groove… It’s also required if you want to take any of the other classes so… There I am. The class ends with a public show (Nov. 8th @ Noon if you’re savvy) and the chance to take more advanced classes in the future.
The agent interview was on Thursday and probably solicited more anxiety from me than any of the other stuff combined. It doesn’t take an industry insider to know that an agent is good. They give you access to a higher-caliber of work than can usually be found on your own. In short, the big stuff generally comes through them. I was fortunate that after submitting my reel, resume and photos and getting the referral of a friend (high-five, buddy!) I was invited in to an interview.
The nature of the interview was ambiguous, but it was clear that it was not an audition. I likely would not be asked to read a script or be on camera, it is much more like a traditional job interview than most actors are used to. I was told to ‘be myself’ and bring two copies of my headshot and resume.
I was ten minutes early, wore jeans and high-heels, and brought FOUR copies of my headshot and resume. Straight A’s, man. The conversation went well, a real introduction and candid discussion of the business. Ultimately, I was trying to show/discuss my strengths while they evaluated whether I would compliment or clutter their existing roster of talent. About 15 minutes later we shared a ‘thank you’ and ‘we’ll be in tough next week if…’ and it was over. I clip-clopped my to my car feeling like I had neither eaten’ shit, nor blown their minds and could check it off as ‘doing-your-best’.
Last week I also had a chance to sit-in and read a screenplay with some Minnesota friends in a very friendly, informal gathering; and I saw a bang-up show at Second City.
And - there it is - as promised, I’ve disclosed The Thing and now I feel just as guilty and naked and vulnerable as anyone leaving St. Mary’s, or Harrod’s, or the speed-dating room at the Embassy Suites.
For me, a new-comer, just being here is BIG. HUGE! There I am, merging fast on the 101 - my hair done, my headshots in a stack on the passenger seat next to me - palm trees whizzing by, and looking for the Santa Monica Blvd. Exit. Hells bells. Long way from Wisconsin Street in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin - the centermost point in the state of Wisconsin.
… and yet, the fact is that these student films pay nothing and can be (often are) terrible little wastes of time. I spend hours in traffic, money on parking, and find myself turning slow circles in the middle of an upscale college campus getting sunburn and STRESSING OUT over whether I will be late to ATTEMPT to work (for free) for a 22 year-old’s mid-term assignment.
Depending one’s mood, or company, or weather - any number of factors - the good can be made bad. The triumphant can be made failure. The promising can be made dreadful.
It’s now available for comment, and hope, and judgement, and expectation, and comparison and ridicule… and my Mom to read tomorrow morning.
And for Me to read in 10 years with alllllll that perspective.
Oh… and check out The Wall! Grill, movie screen and wood chips have made a Yard outta it afterall.
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