Civilians on the Battlefield

Are you ready?  Are you looking forward to what lies ahead?  Are you waiting for something to happen, leaving your success and livelihood in the hands of someone (or everyone else), or are you one of those people who are making plans for your own future?While I have been persistently going through the rigamarole of job hunting in this depressed market, I am also leveraging my own skills and talents to generate a modest cash flow.  I have recently completed the redesign of a website for Wed With Ease, a full-service wedding coordinator, and have a half-dozen or so potential clients currently evaluating their website needs.  I designed my own website, ScottJSmith.com, and plan to offer the same service to others for a fee affordable to “starving artists.”

The homestead required some more urgent attention this past month:  Our neighbor pointed out to me a pine tree along our property line was leaning at a precarious angle.  After evaluating removal options, we learned that the likely cause was a lighting-strike, meaning portions of the trunk were probably hollow, and very little was supporting the weight of the tree, the top of which was directly over our neighbor’s back yard.  Watching the landscaping team handle the towering pine was nerve-wracking:  If it was unlikely the tree could support its own weight, how could it possibly support a 200+ pound technician (plus equipment) climbing to the very top?

The best way to handle such concerns is simple:  I closed the curtains on the back screen door and listened to a podcast.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I did peek from time-to-time.  I had to make sure the fence was still standing, and a 12-foot trunk section didn’t crash through my brand new deck.  This same company removed four trees from the property last November, two growing within a couple feet of the house and would nearly scrape the roof on windy days.  AAffordable Sonshine State Tree Service is a quick and professional company, and leave the property void of any debris.

Last month, the Advent Lutheran Church held its second annual Heritage Day.  You might remember my blog entry last November about the “Special Music” video I produced after last year’s Heritage Day talent exhibition.  This year, more acts participated in a competition, and I was invited to be the master of ceremonies.  There were plenty of vocal acts and a martial arts exhibition, and the talent competition was followed by a presentation from the Clay County Community Band Swing Ensemble and Full Orchestra.

I also was thrilled to audition for the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre for the first time.  Each year, I am either unavailable on the audition date, or unsure whether I would be able to participate in the upcoming season.  In fact, for this season’s audition this past April, I deferred because my availability for this season also was uncertain.  I learned about a fall audition held at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center two days prior to the audition date.  While I would have preferred more advance notice (Equity actors received notices a month prior), I fortunately had several monologues, any one of which I could polish by that Saturday.

I was not entirely off-book as I had hoped (shame on me).  Although a memorized piece was not required for this audition, I perform best when my monologue or scene has been fully rehearsed.  I thought the performance I gave was sufficient for a role, though the director side of me would have preferred to see a monologue flow with a bit more fluidity.  I shall remain optimistic that I have earned a role in Hamlet and All’s Well That Ends Well (to be performed in repertory January through March).

During the last half of October, I had the privilege of working with Allied Container Services during their pre-deployment battlefield simulation training for the National Guard.  I nearly missed the opportunity, altogether.  The casting call was scheduled at 2:00 PM on a Monday.  I had offered to carpool with another performer, and by the time we connected and arrived at the casting, although it was scheduled for several more hours, most of the roles were already assigned.

For this project, over one hundred actors joined Iraqi nationals to develop realistic scenarios that evaluate the troops’ skills and judgment.  Each day, we would arrive in wardrobe and don special electronic gear that tracks all participants’ movements and vital statistics.  Since all weaponry was armed with blank ammunition, these units collected data to determine how many soldiers, insurgents and civilians were injured or killed by snipers, friendly fire or improvised explosive devices.  Hollywood special effects crews provided explosions and New York make-up artists applied wounds, blood and burns to victims to make each iteration as true-to-life as possible.

Between iterations, the Iraqi role players would share their experiences and teach Arabic phrases to the actors, which made each successive turn more and more authentic.  This was an excellent exercise at improvisation and character development, as well as a truly rewarding experience, knowing how my participation contributed to the preparation and safety of our troops overseas.  The greatest compliments came from soldiers who have already served at least one tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, who confirmed the authenticity of the simulations, and personally thanked our efforts.

On my day off from the ACS Villager project, I was cast as a character in a political ad for the League of American Voters.  This organization was concerned about content in the current health care bill that has not been widely publicized.  Given the accelerated time-line of political advertisements, I had one day with the script, which I read into my voice recorder and listened to during my drive to and from Camp Blanding for the above project, as well as the drive from Jacksonville to Tallahassee for the taping itself.

This spot was shot on a green screen set with a Red One camera (an ultra high-definition camera), in the style of the popular “Mac vs. PC” commercials.  I met my co-star Jannie Adriano at the studio that morning, we had a couple read-throughs while make-up was being applied, and spent four hours recording about four different scripts.  One example is embedded in this blog post.  If you do not see it to the right, it can also be seen on the Video page of my website at www.ScottJSmith.com.  I will upload the other versions when I obtain copies.

Before I close, I wanted to share some very exciting news:  Some of you might remember Patch from the Save 2 Lives film I created this past summer.  He was the one who only appeared briefly from within his cage.  Although he has such a pleasant personality, he has been unbelievably shy when around strangers.  Well, over the past several weeks, he has been working with a trainer who specializes in abnormal animal behaviour, and I am thrilled to say that Patch is a new man!  Now, he romps around with other dogs and snuggles with his trainer, as if he’s been like that his entire life!  If you would like to take him home, please contact Mike’s Dog House.

I also want to congratulate my friends in the cast and crew of KillaCozzy Production’s Chiaroscuro, Baby, which premiered this month at the Florida Theatre.  You can still catch showings of the film at Five Points Theatre.  Also, I would like to share with you a really fun, themed event coming up this month:  The St. Augustine Airport Pilots Association is hosting a World War II-style Hangar Dance on Saturday, November 21st.  Authentic aircraft and equipment will be on display, and the Clay County Community Swing Band will play old standards for your dancing delight!  It’s open to the public, but tickets must be purchased in advance:  www.SAAPA.org.

Everybody have a FANTASTIC Thanksgiving!

Scott J. Smith

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