So, What’s the Next Big Thing?

August started on a cheerful, personal note.  My cousin got married in Pittsburgh’s Heinz Chapel, a stunning work of architecture!  I am glad the family had another chance to gather (from all corners of the country), since Grandma’s funeral in June.  We arranged our flight from Jacksonville to Columbus to spend some time with Grandpa and drive him to Pittsburgh, if he was physically able to travel.  The day before the wedding, he opted out of what would have been a long, uncomfortable drive, which made the brief time with him prior to the wedding that much more precious.
While I enjoy traveling, the trip was an unbelievably miserable experience.  We hadn’t left Jacksonville when I tried to resolve some conflicting information between an in-terminal announcement and a flight status text message I received.  Rather than calmly explaining the situation, the gate agent decided to address the impatient crowd by saying, “Evidently someone wasn’t paying attention!”  Really?  We’re insubordinate grade-school students, now?…and we pay for this level service?
When the aircraft arrived, travelers were advised to board the aircraft as quickly as possible, which ultimately only made everybody angrier…200 people can only load their luggage in the overhead bins so fast.  Of course, in seventy years, the airlines haven’t figured out if you load the back of the plane FIRST…then nobody trips over anybody.  Say what you will about European carrier RyanAir — it is marvelous how they will load the plane using fore AND aft aircraft doors.  Talk about efficiency!
During this circus, a gentleman in the row behind me kindly offered a suggestion regarding an ill-fitting case.  The flight attendant snapped, “You wanna get out here and do this, you’re more than welcome.”  She was completely unaware (or didn’t care) that we paid as much for our tickets as the people she might have been nice to at the beginning of her shift, and if she couldn’t handle the stress of the career, there are plenty of unemployed people who are more than willing to perform her duties with smiles on their faces! At least the planes all have a fresh coat of paint, so they’re spending their money in the right place…right?
Upon my return to Jacksonville, I had plenty of work to do.  On Tuesday, my wife and I attended the Florida Motion Picture and Television Association’s Jacksonville Chapter meeting to hear producer Kent Lindsey speak on “The Eight Secrets to Becoming a Professional Actor.”  It could easily have been retitled “The Eight Secrets to Becoming a Professional” — the same tips that make actors successful are required in any professional position in any industry.  Actors should take extra care exercising these guidelines.
Wednesday, Champ and I completed editing the Save 2 Lives documentary.  On Thursday, I auditioned in Tampa for a Beef O’Brady’s commercial, and Friday, I had two auditions, a film shoot, and I delivered the final version of Save 2 Lives to the Jacksonville Landing for the upcoming premiere.  Friday’s first audition was for a new energy drink.  From there, I went to WJXT Channel 4 to audition for a spot promoting the 10 O’Clock News, which was shot the following week.  Be on the lookout for it in the next week or so.
As I settled in at home, the first email I read had to do with a scene that was being shot that night in Mount Dora.  I went through other emails (and my spam folder) to see if I missed any previous notices.  I tried calling to verify, and could not reach anyone.  I had just enough time to drive the two hours to the set.  My main concern was that maybe the information was incorrect (a typographical error, perhaps?), and the long drive could be in vain.
The weather was not cooperative, and traffic along I-95 was at a standstill.  I attempted more calls to various contacts on the set, to no avail.  When I arrived, I was quickly advised that my role was re-cast, because I was a “no show” at the initial read-through.  The director had forgotten that the read-through fell on the same night as my flight up north, but fortunately, I was asked to stay, and my “replacement” was offered a different role, so I could perform the character I had prepared.
The movie is called Daniel’s Lot.  It is the story about a man who faces many challenges, and decides to take a “leap of faith” with a piece of property he owns, which not only enriches his life, but the lives of the people in his home town.  It has a Field of Dreams meets Fireproof feel to it.  The story is quite original and compelling, and has an appearance by Gary Burghoff of M*A*S*H fame.  I returned to shoot a couple additional scenes later in the month.
Sunday’s premiere of Save 2 Lives was fantastic!  Hundreds of people filled the Jacksonville Landing courtyard, and children and dogs played in the fountain while the band played.  The Jacksonville Landing awarded many prizes during the event, some of which were donated directly to Mike’s Dog House.  It was great to see the film on the big screen, and we received plenty of positive feedback.  Save 2 Lives will be uploaded to YouTube shortly.  To see the film, follow the production’s Twitter account or fan the Facebook page to learn when the film can be viewed online.
The weekend saw a quick out-and-back trip to the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  Earlier this year, Layla and I learned about a new supergroup called Chickenfoot.  When we heard Joe Satriani was joining forces with Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith, we knew this was the start of something good.  The concert itself was more of a jam session than overly-planned cookie-cutter performance.  The quartet looked very relaxed, and couldn’t be more happy doing what they do best.  It was a wonderful night.
The return trip Sunday afternoon gave us just enough time to pick up our dogs, thank our friend who cared for them over the weekend, and take them to the Jacksonville Suns‘ “Bark-in-the-Park” baseball game.  The weather couldn’t be more perfect, there was plenty of food and drink on hand for the people and dogs, and Rufus and Domino got to “run the bases” after the Suns’ loss to the Chattanooga Lookouts.
I finished the month with one more audition — this one was for the CW television series One Tree Hill.  I felt very confident with my level of performance, and hope to hear some good news very soon.  I have two more auditions this week:  One is for an internal video to be used by a home improvement club, and the other is for a motion picture to be filmed in Atlanta.  I am glad to be given these opportunities to audition — now I need to do “whatever it takes” to convert more of these auditions into actual work!
Sadly, this past month lost two prominent figures in local theatre:  Edward Kramer passed away suddenly at the age of 33 on August 19th.  He was one-of-a-kind and loved by many.  I have had the privilege of performing with him, directing him, and calling him “friend.”
Also, I was shocked to learn the Alhambra Dinner Theatreis the latest casualty of the global economic crisis.  I have enjoyed attending their shows for over twenty years, and I am disheartened I will never have the opportunity to perform there myself.  “Hats off” to all the actors, singers and dancers who performed in their quality productions over past 41 years.  Thank you, Tod Booth, for entertaining thousands on the First Coast.  Bravo! *Scott J. Smith

* – As I was writing this entry, I came across a news report that an investor might just save the Alhambra Dinner Theatre, update the menu offerings, and improve the facility.  The shows at the Alhambra Dinner Theatre have always been first-rate, but there have been complaints about the decor and cuisine.  Bringing in a renowned chef to update the buffet is a win for the community!
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