30 June 2008

YOINK! Oh, I'm sorry. Did you want that job? You're a bit too...male.

Well, here I am in my cave, blogging with a refreshing import brew by my side. Which is odd, since I was supposed to be on set for commercial #7 of '08, extolling the virtues of a certain mass-produced domestic beer, which shall remain nameless, but will heretofore be known as "Pisslyte."

The story begins last weekend, with an unusual Saturday afternoon callback. Normally not a big deal to me as I don't venture far these days, but of course, that's the one weekend I had a plan to get out of town. And at this rate, probably the only vacation I will get until Thanksgiving, if that's a vacation. So I delayed my road trip a full day to make the callback.

Fast-forward to today. I'm on set, after three walk-thru rehearsals, moments away from last looks and getting the establishing shot. That's when a production manager asks me to follow him for a second.

Yeah, that's your first clue that something's amiss. When a set full of half a dozen principals and 8 or 10 extras patiently wait in their places, a guy having you follow him out of the building is a bad thing.

So, it turns out that the big honcho from Pisslyte had just arrived on set. Mr. Big Cheesenuts, fresh off his private jet, takes a look at the lineup of the 3 "hero guys" and thinks.

"Too much penis."

Cheesenuts want girl with boys. Cheesenuts not satisfied with only one girl in spot, so I guess Cheesenuts picked his favorite extra and totally made her day. And home I went.

Not much you can do in that situation. I do take a lot of solace in knowing just how many crew members there I had worked with 2 or 3 times in the last few months. They've seen me do some crazy shit to sell product, they know what I'm all about and we'll have a good laugh about it one day, just as heartily as we laughed about how Verizon doesn't like paying its stunt men. Man, good times! I look forward to Cheesenuts seeing my other spots running later this summer and just knowing he's seen that face somewhere... But chances are, tomorrow morning he won't even remember he commercial-cockblocked me. I, meanwhile, am revising my expected income this year by a good 15-25%. Wonder how Cheesenuts would feel about that kind of a salary adjustment. For the actor, it is another reminder of that saying with the chickens and the hatching and whatnot.

But that's all you can do. Throwing a tantrum, taking it personally, anything other than just taking it gracefully is bad for business and would ruin any goodwill built up between actor, agencies, and crew. And it would make things awkward when it comes time to shoot whatever import/independent brew commercial is waiting for me in the coming weeks. This is the time not for sulking, but for putting my energy to just how amazing it would feel to be hired as the spokesman for any rival import, or good beer. And to make it successful enough to put a nice dent in Pisslyte's quarterly earnings. "Highly motivated actor seeks beverage campaign! Preferably a beverage with flavor, but willing to consider all options..."

In the end, I'll get my session fee for the day, which will pay for my groceries in late July or early August. Unless I have to pay for something else, like the bills that are 2 months late, and then all bets are off. It's phenomenal to have booked this much work this year, but I have needed every single penny of it. July looks bleak, as I will have about $300 after rent is paid. (And a maxed-out credit card.) I have no idea when any more checks are due, and the only reason I will be plus-300 rather than minus-300 is the economic stimulus bribe check which finally arrived. So the next time to feel like ridiculing your waiter/waitress for their acting career, keep in mind that they may very well be consistently working. Acting full-time is an edge of your seat, hold-your-assets journey. Ups and downs are guaranteed, so take it easy on the drinkie.

And don't forget to tip your waitstaff and pay your stunt men!

25 June 2008


For the second time this year, I've done the ridiculous and booked two (or more) national commercials in a week, bringing the total to seven in 2008. I'm not sure what I have to say for myself. I will try harder. Seriously, I'm on pace to pass Barry Bonds in several categories. Let me just say right now that I am not now, nor have I ever been on the juice. Although I do occasionally take the Juice Plus vitamins.

And it couldn't have come at a better time. The funds have dwindled to $43 after my pension/health care payment went through automatically. Not enough to fill the tank any more. I've run up the balance on my credit card giving me only $80 or so for emergencies. I've talked to my agent's assistant about letting me know when I can come in to pick up any checks that arrive, as every day counts at the end of the month. This month's ass-saving check will be the $600 economic stimulus bribe, and it will be the only way I pay my $600 share of the rent. Thank goodness I have stocked up a lot of frozen foods, groceries will have to go on the back burner for the next week, at least. And there's another great benefit of booking: I will be fed well.

And like the sands through the hourglass, these are the days of the "middle class screen actor." An actor who has far surpassed his known parameters, lived within his means, and booked an enviable amount of work. And it took booking five commercials in the spring just to have enough to make it to this point at the end of June. I was, for the umpteenth time since moving to LA, at the end of the line, about to consider calling former employers who are still on speaking terms with me. Kidding. I wouldn't call the ones who aren't.

Here's a chart detailing average actor salaries broken down by years of experience. I'm fortunate enough to be on pace to be on the high end of this range. To be fair, none of my nationals have aired yet, but that can be expected. After you shoot a commercial, you could be waiting a few weeks, months, or more than a year before it airs. Crazy stuff happens. But these times in between those life-giving residuals are getting more and more difficult to cover.

And the AMPTP wants to roll the goal posts back into the stadium parking lot.

17 June 2008

Auditions are Getting Expensive

I've been keeping meticulous mileage wreckords for a few years now. Why, I don't know, because I've never once qualified for the mileage credit come tax time. But I have to satisfy the obsessive-compulsive demon within, so I can tell you down to the mile what I drove last year. (If you cared, and since the IRS doesn't...)

I've done enough OCD driving about town to know that my car gets roughly 23 miles per gallon. My closest audition is a twenty mile round trip. There's $4.00 right there. More often than that, however, are the two-gallon Santa Monica auditions. And at least half of those will be three-gallon trips during rush hour. So, for one audition on the west side from the Fred Dome in Glendale, I could be paying about $15.

I never bothered to calculate mileage expenses down to the mile, even in my time as a messenger. But the other day, I missed a street and before I knew it, took a five-minute, five mile detour. And there's another dollar.

Now figure in the proverbial they who always say booking one job for every 100 auditions is par for the course. If that's average, then the average professional actor is still waiting tables, personal assisting, house sitting...whatever it takes to scrape by in this city, and are lucky enough to duck out for an audition every once in a while. The primary focus on SAG's contract negotiations is restoring the strength of the middle-class actor.

I'm so grateful to be able to say that I've booked six jobs in my last fifty auditions. But I never would have expected that I would need every last penny to stay afloat for the last three months. Two of those bookings were national commercials in which I didn't make it off the cutting room floor. One job is (so far) internet only, which will net me a couple grand over the course of a year. One is on the shelf due to some mysterious circumstance, and I'm still waiting on Capital One to air. So even after going on a 6-for-51 tear, which included 4 national commercials, I'm down to my last $200, with a $900+ credit card balance. (Yes, it's a Capital One!)

This is the time of the month when I start looking ahead at what I will have in the bank come rent time. And I start gathering all the items I can find which might net me a few bucks on ebay. It's amazing how many times I've skirted by because of a surprise residual check, and I think I'm due for a holding fee before July. Sure do hope I am! But just living this "middle-class" actor life is an incredible leap of faith.

And coming soon...the story behind the Capital One gig.