n January (remember January? It was REALLY cold…even in Florida!), I started traveling the state more, looking for work. It seems like the advertisers’ new fiscal year has begun, and quite a few more commercial projects are in production. This required several trips to South Florida, and it appears in order to break into that market, an actor could really benefit by being bilingual. Eight hours of Spanish lessons are currently loaded on my phone, which is a start.
I exercised my acting muscle with an evening workshop taught by Shauna Bartel. This successful actor and coach offers several on-camera workshops for adults and children. During one exercise, where she was illustrating the importance of developing relationships among characters, I was paired with RJ Stallman, whom I just met at an audition earlier that same day, who was now playing my “funny girlfriend.” I also learned RJ knew Doug Bows, who worked on the “Civilians on the Battlefield” project with me last fall. Small World, eh?I met television production director Stacy Bick, who was visiting from Rochester, NY. While she was in town catching up with her brother, she also spent some time with various local film and televison professionals, learning about the industry in the North Florida market. Since I missed the First Coast Film Society happy hour, she and I met for lunch at Seven Bridges Restaurant the next day, and had a wonderful conversation that spanned many topics.
The Backlight Theatre Group, under the leadership of Devlin Mann, started an actor’s lab for stage and film actors, including one with an emphasis on performing Shakespeare’s works (BONUS!). The labs are an “actor’s playground:” they provide a safe environment where actors can hone techniques, experiment with a piece, and learn from each other’s experiences. I have really enjoyed my participation with this group of performers!
For a while, we had considered selling our current home and moving into the smaller townhouse we still own as rental property in Orange Park. I spent most of the month, performing maintenance and landscaping around the house, including resurfacing a bathtub, painting the office, master bathroom and kitchen nice, marketable, neutral (read “blah”) colors. The intention was to continue to the hallway, foyer, living room and master bedroom, but that got put on hold when work opportunities were presented to me. We still live in this house, and our townhouse tenants renewed their lease.
I was on “Cloud 9” when I was on set four consecutive days in January. I portrayed a criminal (yes, again) for a Federal agency. One thing about casting actual police officers for an arrest scene: they don’t mess around (youch)! I also shot eight scenes over two days for a CSX training film, where I had my second “Small World” encounter this month: New York actress Carly Churchey went to school with Tim Kompanchenko, with whom I have performed, and who also attends Backlight’s actors lab.
The CSX shoot was a learning experience for me: The eight scenes consisted of four scenarios, each performed “the right way” and “the wrong way.” These scripts were very similar, and two scenarios were almost identical. Late in the day, I had a tough time discriminating one script from another. I would hesitate on my responses, because the alternate lines would also apply. I learned that, when you have a situation like this, be even more confident with your memorization of the script than you usually are, and make notes how such scenes differ, to make it easy to “switch gears” when the time comes.
Layla’s best friend and maid-of-honor Anne Gilkey visited us from Texas while on a business trip, attending seminars and workshops that focus on the benefits of utilizing horses in therapeutic environments. We didn’t feel like cooking on her first night in town, so we made our way to Dick’s Wings. We didn’t know it was Trivia Night, but the “regulars” helped us get situated, and hey, it was free. The three of us made an excellent team, missing only one question: “Name the four years the Buffalo Bills went to the Super Bowl.” I forgot they were consecutive. Sorry, Layla and Ann! We were asked by the regulars not to come back. We had to, though, to use the gift certificate we won that night!
The month ended with a number of self-tape auditions. Some were completely taped and produced by myself; not the ideal setup, but still works in a pinch. The others were recorded by friends of mine, who also read the scenes with me, and I returned the favor. I was concerned about the “phantom earthquake” that seemed to appear on all self-tape recordings. The background in each audition would appear to shake, as if I was recording on an unstable surface. I have since learned that, when using a tri-pod, one must disable the “EIS,” or Electronic Image Stabilization feature of the camera. While this makes handheld shooting appear much more fluid, it over-compensates as it tries to steady any moving object on a tri-pod shot scene. Note to casting directors: You won’t see any more of that from me!
Scott J. Smith