You Always Have to Start the Year Off Right

The harder you work…and the smarter you work…the better the rewards, right?  Something else I have learned over the past couple years, is that patience is not only a virtue, but a way of life and an absolute requirement for long-term success (financial advisors will even tell you to look at investments over the long term, rather than the day-to-day fluctuations of a stock or commodity).

So, between auditions, shoots, workshops and other performances (sometimes during the drive to or from any of these), I reflect on my knowledge and skills, and identify areas for improvement.  Notes I have made for myself could make a separate blog, altogether!  The long trips along I-95 or I-75 provide ample time to listen to industry podcasts, or recordings of webinars and teleconferences.  It puts to use that time that would otherwise be left idle, listening to talk radio, NPR, pop music, and when Kiefer’s awake, singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or having incomprehensible conversations!

On occasion, I have had my son in tow.  So far, I have yet to ruffle the feathers of any casting director by bringing him along.  Fortunately, I have only brought Kiefer along to one audition at a casting director’s office, who is notorious for running an extremely tight ship.  Anything that strays from “by the book” just is not tolerated at all, here.  I set down the sleeping baby in his child seat with no fanfare, and calmly shared looks with other actors in the waiting room, to quell any “ohh”s and “awe”s.  We were flying under the radar, here.  I felt that, as long as he doesn’t present a distraction in the waiting room, my offense of bringing him to begin with would be forgiven.

We caught a break, because one of my associates in the room offered to “rock” him when it was my turn to audition.  Most actors are quick to leave the casting office after an audition, on to the next one, a performance, a class, or a “jobby job,” but she had no qualms about sticking around for a little while to help out a fellow professional.  I returned to the waiting room feeling “just ok” about my performance, to hear the casting director (she stays outside the studio while assistants film the auditions) pleasantly ask the actress when did she ever have time to have a baby!   We straightened her out, and I was half-expecting a tongue-lashing, but got a very sincere compliment, instead.

That same week, I got a call for a commercial shooting in Orlando.  The details were a bit fuzzy, though I was familiar with the company and their current advertising campaign, but that did not help with my wardrobe selection.  So, to avoid not having the right outfit, I just overloaded my car with every combination I could think of (if only I can find a foldable rolling wardrobe that can fit in the trunk of a Pontiac Solstice) !  My scene was simple:  Sitting in a restaurant, my dining companion (forcibly) spills a glass of wine on me.  I believe the number of takes became quite excessive and gratuitous:  Change the tablecloth, towel Scott down, reset.  Who knows if they were even rolling on half of them.  Ha, ha, people.

As if that wasn’t enough abuse for one day…as I left that shoot, my car wouldn’t start.  The battery was obviously dead, but the car is new enough, that it has one of those relays that prevents battery drain from any accessory.  I almost got it to turn over once, but not quite.  I thought I was in luck, since there was one of those big-box warehouse retailers right next door to the film set.  I walked over to their automotive section and explained my predicament.  YES!  They did have one battery in stock that would fit my car; however, their technicians are not certified to do battery replacements (insurance policy, maybe?).

I could buy the tools to change the battery, myself, but this ultra-compact roadster practically requires the entire front end be disassembled just to do this seemingly simple task.  This ended up as a call to Roadside Assistance.  Although the jumper cables connected to an industrial pick-up truck couldn’t do the trick, a hand-held charger in the tow truck got my car going once again.  Once started, I wasn’t concerned much about the battery (alternator, don’t fail me now!), and I cruised two hours home, and got to a service station that could change the battery for me just before closing time!

Not long after that, I had a commercial shoot in Miami.  Talk about the need for reliable transportation!  I tend not to look at commercials in Miami, since the mileage for the auditions are almost always prohibitive, but in this case, the money was really good, and it was a direct booking.  This had to have been the quietest film shoot I have ever been on.  It took place inside a retail store…during business, but something about the design of the building made it possible to stay at a conversational tone, even over a great distance.  There were customers all over the place, but this store is SO HUGE it dwarfs typical warehouse clubs and “Super”-retailers!  We just closed off a section at a time, but never long enough to inconvenience the shoppers.  It was great!

Kiefer chaperoned another audition excursion to Atlantic Beach with me.  His patience by now is good for almost an hour, but the wait time exceeded that by a bit.  When I was called, a half-dozen of my close friends all offered to look after him.  When I walked in, the casting director was concerned that he wasn’t with me.  I explained this was my audition, and before I could get to the, “…and as a professional I feel I shouldn’t impose…,” I was advised directly to retrieve him, and that I wouldn’t be allowed to any more of her auditions without bringing him with me.  (…and I think she’s absolutely serious!)

I was offered a role different from the one for which I auditioned, but which was remarkably similar to one I played in another project very recently.  You might have heard me talk about the “guy who thinks too much of his ability at an audition and gets thrown out…roughly.”  V-e-r-y similar scene!  The crew was remarkable…I have worked with most of them at one time before, but never together on the same project.  The mood was always very high-spirited, and every scene moved like clockwork.  Very.  Well.  Done.

I also recently attended the Gainesville Improv Festival, a showcase of national and international improvisational performance groups with long- and short-form shows, as well as workshops led by industry leaders.  Many of the Mad Cowford company members made their way down for at least one day of the festival, if not the entire weekend.  Featured acts included 3033, ArACkA, Fiber Octaves, Theatre Strike Force, and many others, including, of course, Mad Cowford!  I wasn’t able to attend the workshops, but the shows were outstanding!

Although my main focus has been acting, most professionals talk about supplementing their arts-generated income with some other form, where “your money works for you.”  Some share special deals on herbal probiotic supplements; others might have another skill like copywriting or graphic design they can do in their down time; and some might be adept at traditional stock and commodity investments.  Layla and I have been looking at niche affiliate marketing.  This is where you share your opinion about very specific products and services to a broad audience, and connect that audience with the providers.  Rather than “purchasing an independent business offering” or subscribing to some multi-level plan, niche affiliate marketing simply connects people to products and services, where the commission is paid by the provider, and not the buyer.

Remember I said something about being patient?  Although I do understand the importance of investing in yourself, your family and your business, you have also come to know that I am not a person who carelessly spends money on…anything.  Although I have been practicing with a wired ear-prompter for a couple years now, its usefulness in practical filming applications is quite limited — my short cannot conceal the wire, a problem those with longer hair, especially ladies, don’t have to deal with as often.  So, I have used the “eBay Search Alerts” feature to notify me when an ear-prompter is ever listed.  This is not a popular item on the world’s largest auction site, by the way.

There are a few manufacturers, though the design varies so little among the different providers.  A typical kit, with recorder, earpiece, batteries, cleaning kit and “loupe” (short-range transmitting antenna worn underneath the clothes) typically run anywhere between $600 and $1,200 new.  When listed on eBay, they fetch at least $500, so I would “watch” each item listed, and decide on the last day of the auction whether I could come up with the “Jack.”  Usually the answer was a resounding, “you gotta be kidding me, right?”  Well, I don’t know how it happened:  I’m guessing whoever listed this particular item didn’t categorize it right, because nobody watched it.  It was one of those $800 kits with extra batteries and an extra ear bud and loupe (about another $400 bucks) thrown in.  On the last hour, I put in the “minimum bid” of $200, hoping there was no reserve, AND WON IT!!!

This year also called for an upgrade of equipment I have been using for shooting videos and taping auditions.  Although the make-shift methods have yielded adequate results for a while, it is time, especially with the versatility and ease-of-use of modern technologies to enhance my equipment portfolio.  I was surprised to find how affordable it was to obtain a digital SLR camera (the Canon EOS Rebel T2i), backdrop, lighting kit and accessories.  At these prices, anybody can set up their own digital video studio!  The lens came a week after a camera, so I borrowed a friends “macro” lens and was dumb-founded by the types of pictures it yielded!

That camera came in very handy for a live performance event I was cast in the week it was delivered.  I was to play a “professional photographer” (go figure, right?)…more like a “paparazzo.”  This was a private event, but we set it up as a red carpet premiere, with reporters, photographers, raving fans and the like.  The guest of honor had no idea!

Scott J. Smith

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