Gearing Up in the New Year

Since the beginning of this year, I have been cautiously optimistic about acting opportunities in Northeast Florida.  A few months ago, I declined several theatrical auditions when I made a commitment to a production that should have kept me busy through January, but factors unknown to me caused the production to “go in another direction.”I did perform in a few single-day shoots, however, including an industrial film reinforcing safety concepts and protocols for CSX Transportation employees.  But for the fact those beer bottles were empty and there were hardly enough burgers to go around, with the talent on this shoot, it very well could have turned into an actual barbecue!  Thank you, CSX, for employing local talent and crew!

Out West, the unions representing the actors continue to negotiate with the producers; and while very important to an actor’s livelihood for the forseeable future, is having an impact on current levels of production.  Also, the entertainment industry continues to address the challenge of this current global economic situation, as evidenced by a reduction in theatre audiences and DVD sales.

The “silver lining” could possibly be the significant up-tick in motion picture box office revenue in the most recent quarter.  Part of this could be the cost of going to the movies still rivals many other entertainment options.  Another reason could be that during difficult economic and political times, people tend to seek a diversion or “escape” from reality.  With slowed production, lower-budget films, like Academy Award sleeper Slumdog Millionaire, could be the norm until the industry recovers.

Given the “green” nature of the film and television industry, and the fact that production budgets affect the local economy six-fold, most states across the nation have developed intricate incentive programs to draw productions to their state.  The State of Florida saw its greatest impact in the 2007-2008 season, when $25 million was allocated to draw 53 major productions to the state, which generated over $170 million to the local economy.  Since then, the incentive program has been slashed drastically, and the reduction in related jobs and revenue has been substantial, affecting all businesses across the entertainment spectrum:

This past month, I attended a town hall meeting, where a panel consisting of Florida State Representative Audrey Gibson, Florida State Film Commissioner Lucia Fishburne and Jacksonville Film Commissioner Todd Roobin addressed the concerns of the entertainment professionals in attendance.  It was noted that night that notable talent and crew were not present at the meeting because they had to go out-of-state to find work.  The absence of a viable film incentive program in Florida has an effect everywhere.

Since the panel offerred to answer all questions from the attendees, the town hall meeting ran over two hours, which meant I likely would not be home in time for a teleconference I had scheduled with an acting coach.  The seminar was hosted in Los Angeles, so it was (fortunately for me) scheduled for a late hour for those of us on the East Coast.  I dialled into the system while in the parking lot of the town hall meeting, and listened via speaker-phone while I drove home, where I could participate more directly.

The seminar was the first in a five-part series.  Since this was more of an introduction, most of the bullet-points covered are topics we all know quite well, but it is always beneficial to hear anecdotes and testimonies from a variety of perspectives.  The entire seminar was very up-beat and motivational…kudos to Bob Fraser and David Breslow for their insight!  I am sure my frame-of-mind at this past Thursday’s audition was impacted by this very seminar.

On Thursday, I auditioned for a video intended for regional church youth programs.  When auditions are held at the agency, it can be quite difficult to keep one cardinal rule:  Keep quiet, as not to disturb the audition, fellow actors preparing for the audition, or in this case, nearby businesses.  Plus, one should be fully committed to the character, and not “catching up” with friends…but as luck would have it, you typically run into other professionals with whom you have worked, and it can be quite tempting to break into casual conversation.  (I’ve commented on this before, haven’t I?  Yes, I’m still working on it!)

I can not say much about the production just yet.  Everything about the project, especially the script, is being kept confidential.  I felt my performance on Thursday was very good.  I did shave for the audition — I have been sporting a groomed “three day beard” for a while now, but my headshot still shows me bare-faced.  The role I was called for likely would work better with some facial hair, but until I update my headshots, I will offer what the casting director is expecting based on the photograph.  Which reminds me…it is probably time to have another session with the new look.

Scott J. Smith
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