Pardon My Absence…

Okay, everyone: Just pretend it was six months ago, okay? Lots have happened in the past half-year, so I will feed it all to you, as always, in bite-size little month-long nuggets.  Like all new parents, new responsibilities materialize, and one must take the time to prioritize his obligations.  Unfortunately, my dear readers, this blog fell “below the line,” an occurrence I hope to rectify for you now.  So think back, way way back, to November 2010; ah, those were the days…

Kiefer was almost four months old then, and now, it seems like nearly a lifetime ago! Friends and family came to visit, and we took great pride when introducing our son to our extended theatre, aviation and church “families.”  Mr. Personality always put on a good face — always very calm, with practically a permanent smile emblazoned on his precious little face!

One such occurrence was at the St. Augustine Airport for its annual fall World War II Hangar Dance.  This themed event brings people together in 1940’s-era garb to enjoy music from the Clay County Community Swing Band, dancing, food and hanging out with friends.  A local museum displayed uniforms, weapons, photos and other memorabilia from World War II, and some of the pilots association members brought their 1940’s era aircraft and other equipment for show.  It’s always a fun night, and Kiefer fit right in with his A-2 leather bomber jacket I appropriated from his stuffed monkey!

For the past ten years, I have worked on quite a few industrial films for a government agency.  Working with the same director and crew on multiple shoots is so fun, since you have already established the rapport, and you know the personalities of all the players, and what the “mood” will be like on set.  I always look forward to these shoots, especially since nearly all have been direct bookings.  It’s nice to feel wanted!

Recently, upper-level personnel from that agency (at another office in the nation’s capital), arranged for auditions for future projects.  Those of us who have worked there before thought it was quite odd, kind of expecting to continue to receive work through direct bookings, but understood that the decision-makers at times need to see the pool of talent available.  I felt very good about my audition, especially since the directors I have worked with took the time to introduce me to his VIP guests in the room.

The next day was another one of my whirlwind audition days.  I keep telling myself, eventually I’ll get burned, but when multiple excellent opportunities present themselves, I also feel I am doing myself a disservice by not pursuing each lead.  In the early morning, I found myself driving to Charleston, South Carolina for a national eye care commercial.  I left in plenty enough time that I arrived nearly an hour before my time slot (these long-distance trips, you can’t be too safe).  Panic didn’t set in until I noticed the casting director was nearly an hour late getting started…AND I HAD AN AUDITION IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA THAT AFTERNOON!

I didn’t let it affect my performance (I don’t think); however, they were auditioning in groups…basically a completely improvised scene with five other actors whom I have never met, let alone worked with on scripted or improvised scenes before.  Though all claimed to have some level improv experience, the scene was very disjointed, with conversations overlapping and very little “listening” going on.  I have mixed emotions about auditions of this type:  If you can “click” with your scene partner(s), everybody benefits…if you don’t, you could suffer, regardless of the amount of preparation, training and raw talent.  By the way, I was on time for the Orlando audition, and I had plenty of time to get that experience out of my head, so that it would not affect my next performance.

…and speaking of “feeling wanted”…

I got a callback! Of course, any actor would be thrilled for a callback, especially if he eventually books the job, but there’s more to it than that this time.  At a prior audition with the same casting director, someone on the panel made a comment as I was leaving, that I don’t think I was supposed to hear.  Since I wasn’t sure of the context, I never knew whether or not it was a slight.  I try to never let anything like that bug me…but this one stung just a little bit, and I didn’t know why.  Since my performance at this audition warranted a callback, I can put my mind at ease, and remind myself to never let things I can’t control affect my dedication to this art form.

Then there are acting jobs that people rarely think about.  Not everything we do is for entertainment purposes.  Sure, there are countless educational programs on television and for private consumption, where actors must demonstrate processes or illustrate situations that may occur within an organization; however, I recently had a job that doesn’t fit either category.

A local Fortune 500 company this year implemented a complex, multi-tiered manager candidate selection process.  Since this company hires from all over the country (and the world), the first couple rounds included phone interviews and Internet surveys.  During the final determination, the top candidates are flown to the company’s headquarters for face-to-face interviews, a “job fit” meeting, and a role play scenario, where the candidate (as the manager), must determine an effective course of action in a live, interactive meeting with his “employee” (me).

The scenarios are mostly improvisational; however, we actors are given guidelines, so that grading of the candidates’ responses can be consistent.  During the event, we are expected to confront our “manager.”  What we learned is: that many confrontations (up to nine in one day) can really wear you down, even if it is just a character you’re playing.  I’ve been “suspended” and “fired” so many times, I’ve lost count, including one candidate who met me at the door with my “pink slip” and called “security” before the “meeting” even began; though I can’t say the outcome the observers truly are looking for.

November was also when Layla and I started getting involved with Help Four Paws, which is a perfect match for us, since we both have a love for aviation and rescuing animals.  Help Four Paws is an organization that includes ground and air transportation for shelter animals when their new forever home (or rescue organization) is a great distance away.  The euthanization rate of abandoned animals is many times higher in the Southeast United States than throughout the rest of the country, so this free means of getting animals out of harm’s way is a vital resource.

We helped organize a golf tournament and silent auction to raise funds for the organization (fuel ain’t cheap, you know).  Kiefer quietly attended all the planning meetings, but for the day’s event, we decided he could stay with Grandma and Grandpa.  They didn’t mind one bit!  It was the first time neither of us was with the little guy, and he took it in stride (so did Mommy and Daddy!).  The weather was perfect for the tournament, many animals were adopted that day, and Help Four Paws received positive publicity and much-needed funds.  Keep an eye out for their next fundraising event at http://www.HelpFourPaws.org

The following weekend, I attended a “Direction and Performance” workshop sponsored by the continuing education branch of a local university.  It was a potpourri of topics, as they were kicking off a series of film and television related curricula for directors, producers, actors and crew.  It’s great to see the spate of educational offerings for the industry in this area.

The following weekend was Thanksgiving, best spent with family.  We celebrated our first Thanksgiving with the newest family member at home this year.  Layla found a recipe for bourbon sweet potatoes that she just had to have.  While Kiefer and I babysat the turkey, she went on a wild-goose hunt, trying to find one store open on the holiday or a neighbor who was home, who had a half-cup of the precious ingredient.  Her solution was rather unorthodox, which I won’t detail to protect the bartender who offered the distilled nectar in a “to-go” cup!

Cheers!

Scott J. Smith
www.ScottJSmith.com

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