“The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Often Go Awry.”

You know the phrase, “Best laid plans…”?  The actual phrase is, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” from Scottish poet Robert Burns’ “To a Mouse.”  The modern translation goes, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” ~ The phrase from which John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” was coined.
Wikipedia has a decent account:  “The poem denotes the narrator of the poem is plowing his field when he cuts through a mouse nest. The poet shows regret and apologizes to the mouse before he goes on a tangent which reveals the deeper meaning of the poem.  The connotation is that even when you mean no harm and have pure intentions, you can destroy somebody else’s well laid plans.”
Today, we often use the phrase interchangably with “Murphy’s Law,” that, regardless of how well you are organized and how well you pay attention to detail, sometimes obstacles get in the way from those plans from being properly executed.  I’m not saying that I have succumbed to failure; rather, I have been involved in several events lately that have not concluded entirely as designed.
For instance, I noted during last month’s blog I had the privilege of playing the role of “bad cop” Nick Portland in Global Fire Productions’ Rescue Me.  Originally, the film was scheduled to complete shooting right around the same time my son was due to be born.  As you all know by now, he was eager to make his planetary debut and arrived eight days prior to his projected birthdate.  Fortunately, the shooting schedule was such that this amendment made no effect on my participation in the film; however, other events did postpone a few of my scenes beyond the anticipated completion date.
My in-laws did stay with us through the month of July, who helped with daily household tasks while Layla and I got a grasp on this whole new “parenting” thing.  It also was truly a blessing they were there to help Layla while I completed my responsibility to this project.  Additional delays, though, pushed shooting beyond our family’s stay, and that’s when things really started becoming a challenge.  My family lives close to us, and they played a huge role at helping us manage the craziness during this period.  We also have some very good friends who were entirely helpful, and often stepped in on very short notice when I was recalled to the set over an hour away.
As a side note, part of the difficulty we faced as parents was Kiefer’s option not to “latch” when it came time to breastfeed.  Naturally, human breastmilk is far superior to any alternatives, when considering the health of a child, and we are determined to offer our son the very best.  Full disclosure:  I was formula-fed, and I turned out just fine, but even I can not discount the beneficial effects available only through breastmilk.  With formula feeding, or breastfeeding with a child that executes a successful latch, the parents have time between feedings to take care of the house, themselves, and, if applicable, their jobs.
Since Layla spent nearly an hour (out of every two) pumping milk, the balance of the time was dedicated mostly to feeding herself or catching some Zzz’s.  That left the majority of childcare (feeding, changing, bathing, holding and rocking, mostly), household chores and home finances to me.  Frankly, I love every single second Kiefer sits in my lap, lays on my chest, curls up next to me in bed, giggles, wriggles, cooes and smiles!  This means, however, that former priorities have to wait, and each opportunity for commercial, television or film work has become a major lesson in resource management and schedule coordination.
Hopefully, I will soon be able to update my demo reel, conduct a biennial flight review and instrument profiency flight check, upgrade my website, update my “desk job” resume, build Kiefer’s toy box, fix several mechanical issues with the “mommymobile,” develop two interactive theatrical events, finish painting the interior of the house, record and distribute a voiceover demo reel, find some time when I can work out on a regular basis and complete a video montage of our one-year anniversary trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon, England (which was four years ago!).
But back to Rescue Me:
I truly had a blast working with Paul A. Moore, Ric Viers, Thomas Griffin and the whole cast and crew of this motion picture, and I cannot wait until the premiere!  I remember when auditioning, I was asked to read for the lead role of Ken Stevens, but they found a real treasure in Ed Bryant – He fit the part perfectly!…Which meant I was able to continue developing my ability to play the “bad example!”  One thing I have noticed:  When you play a police officer, the costume just isn’t complete without the gun belt!  Forget the gun…that three-inch wide band of polyester, nylon and plastic will make anyone walk with that, “Ya feel lucky, punk?” swagger!
I also got to operate a police cruiser (again).  Had I known this was my destiny, I would have kept a picture album of all my time spent in these pursuit vehicles (both in the front and the back)!  I also was the beneficiary of the “brotherhood” among law enforcement personnel:  While shooting a scene involving a traffic stop, we had multiple state troopers and county sheriff deputies stop by to offer support, thinking it was an actual infraction.  A couple times, it interfered with the shot (the production was not granted permission to include certain insignia, so when an actual officer drove into the shot, it meant, “Okay…back to one!”  It was great, though, to see the cooperation among agencies.
Nick Portland just isn’t a likable character.  I had fun working on a personality like this, and enjoyed discovering how an individual like Nick lives his day-to-day life, and what drives his interactions with the other people in this story.  If you find any redeeming quality in this character, I have more work to do!  Stay tuned for release date information for “Rescue Me!”
     Also, this past month, I had another fantastic experience:  Interline Brands has just released a new website:  www.StopInventoryShrinkage.com.  My video might not be up yet, but keep checking back.  The advertising campaign chose an irreverent and exaggerated look at how companies can preserve their budgets by keeping tight controls on their product supplies.  The spot that is on the website right now shows an employee literally “pissing money away.”  (I told you it was irreverent!)
The other spot includes Anthony Paderewski, Michael Hancock and me tossing plumbing supplies out of a moving truck!  It was hot (No air conditioning.  Over hot asphalt.  In Florida.  In August.  Go figure!), but we had so much fun!  I mean, it’s not every day somebody pays you to wreck three toilets, a bunch of PVC pipe and a couple water heaters!  When you see the final product, the excited looks on our faces are genuine — we could hardly contain ourselves.  Keep an eye out for that spot at http://www.youtube.com/barnettprocontractor
The balance of the month included an agency audition for The Jana VanDyke Agency in Atlanta, a direct booking for a Dick’s Sporting Goods commercial, and several self-tape auditions for “Burn Notice” and a couple movies.  Thanks to Scott Broughton and Aaron Tucker for reading with me for those auditions.  Comparing recent auditions to some I recorded a year ago shows marked improvement, so if I am receiving callbacks and direct bookings at this frequency right now, I am definitely headed in the right direction.  Can’t stop taking workshops, though.  I’ve got my eye on one Helen McCready is offering in Orlando next month.
I have also joined the ranks of Mad Cowford Improv.  I’ve known the cast for a while, but my responsibilities with the Murder Mystery Players prevented me from joining in on their brand of fun for almost a decade.  My debut performance was a blast; I wasn’t as quick as I would have liked to, partly because a film shoot preempted my attendance at the final rehearsal before that show, but I was still able to land a few zingers!  I can’t wait to do it again.  I also displayed my improvisational ability for the Backlight Theatre Group’s film project, “In the Pits,” a situation comedy pilot they plan to present to regional television networks.
I finally got around to reproducing my new headshots taken by Michael Helms last month.  Although I had no problem with Great Graphics Photoscan out of Orlando, I heard so many wonderful things about ISGOphoto.com, I just had to give them a try.  The cost of printing is comparable to Photoscan, and the quality of print is just a hair better…you really have to be a stickler for color tone to really tell the difference.  I would have placed an order through them this time, but one thing held me back:  I have gotten into the habit of printing my resume directly onto the back of my headshots.  I feel it is cleaner and much more professional looking than stapling or gluing printer paper to the photos.  When I tried to do so on the ISGO prints, the ink smeared and was illegible.  If I had a laser printer, this likely would not have been a problem, but since I knew I could perform this task with my inkjet printer on Photoscan prints, I returned to my original reproduction company.
Kiefer has spent some time in front of the camera, as well.  We spent one evening at the studio of Don Keeton Photography.  Don had his work cut out for him, as the little guy was not really “feeling the love.”  After a long day of staying up (no more of this 22 hours sleeping, any more), the tired and hungry fellow was a bit fussy during the session, but Don was still able to capture some precious moments of our bundle of joy.  The following week, Christy Whitehead of Christy Whitehead Photography snapped some fantastic shots of Kiefer sleeping in a hammock…and a model truck…in our back yard.  My particular favorite shot is one of our two dogs sniffing either end of the little guy dangling in the hammock!
To finish this entry, I have another quote for you:  Remember, “Necessity is the mother of invention?”  Well, practicality is the FATHER of invention.  Since Kiefer is only a couple months old, it is still too early to lug around numerous trinkets “just in case” one of them might be of value for any particular trip.  I have learned that I can run most errands, or in one case, take Kiefer to a show, with a) a spare diaper, b) an individually-wrapped handi-wipe, c) a burp cloth, and d) a full bottle, which can easily be carried in a runner’s hip bag or a small camera bag with a belt clip.  Of course, other non-essential items are kept in the car, but it is liberating not to have to carry all of that everywhere I go.  I am sure that once Kiefer gets older, there will be a greater need for more “stuff,” but for now, this seems to work, and I wanted to share that little nugget to other parents out there who might be looking for a similar solution.
Until next time, keep your nose clean!
Scott J. Smith
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