“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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Oh, Baby!

That’s right…for those of you who have been keeping score…Kiefer Shannon was born at 10:08 PM on July 12th. The delivery was without complications, and both baby and mommy recovered quickly from the ordeal. Kiefer weighed in at eight pounds, even, at twenty inches of length… “…and my life has never been the same!”

I’m not sure if there is such a thing as having too much information, especially when it comes to the health of your child, but I have learned that our experience into parenthood differs from many others out there. Being designated as having a “high risk” pregnancy, we went from bi-weekly visits to the doctor, to weekly, to twice weekly in rather rapid fashion.

Although mother and child were subjected to numerous tests, a strict diet and vitamin supplement regimen, we never felt too worried about the ultimate outcome, likely out of our trust in the professional medical team caring for us, the extent to which we educated ourselves about the process, and our faith in God.

We were fortunate to see numerous sonograms over the course of the pregnancy, far more than most parents are permitted, “just to be sure” everything was alright. Despite the “high risk” designation, we still planed for, hoped for and prayed for a natural childbirth. (As a side note, we attended “The Bradley Method” childbirth classes, which defines natural childbirth as that which has…preferably…no intervention by the medical staff, including internal fetal monitoring, intravenous fluids, epidural and the Hollywood-esque “stirrup” birthing position…to the point we laugh when we hear people who have “natural” childbirth with an epidural or other chemical assistance???)

The one strike against us for abiding by our birth plan was that Kiefer preferred to stay in the breech position throughout the pregnancy. We even tried all those “Old Wive’s Tale” remedies: ice-packs at the mother’s sternum, playing music at the belly, yoga positions, walking, pelvic rocking, etc. to no avail. Fortunately, or so we thought, we had an ace (well, actually two) up our sleeve. Two of the doctors on our medical team are the only two in North Florida who will attempt a non-caesarian breech birth.

When the Week 39 ultrasound measurements returned an estimated gestational weight of eight pounds, one of those two doctors cringed and said, “Well, we’ll see.” (False encouragement, no doubt.) There were more tests that Monday, and we were advised to get a bite to eat before returning for some additional monitoring. Good thing we did, since all the collected data suggested birth was imminent, and since there was no evidence of dilation, preparations were being made for an evening C-Section. It was also fortunate we decided to make this day a “trial run” for packing the truck with all those “last minute” items needed on the day of the delivery.

While we began to accept this method of delivery, one of the doctors, fully aware and understanding of our desire to have a natural birth, offered a suggested course of action that would end in a safe conventional delivery. To ensure the safety of mother and child, the cesaerian procedure was still scheduled, in case the “cephalic version” (internal rotation) was unsuccessful. As fate would have it, the fluid levels required for such a version were not sufficient, but we appreciated the medical team being attentive and accommodating to our wishes.

Family and friends stayed through the evening to welcome Little Kiefer into the world. Daddy posed next to the nursery viewing window while his son received his routine treatments. Within an hour, the new family was in the recovery room, and not long after, in the maternity wing of the hospital, receiving guests. We are overjoyed about this new chapter in our lives, and we look forward to the challenges and accomplishments that lie ahead. Like most parents, sleep has a different meaning for us now, especially with this tag-team, pump-to-bottle feeding rotation we have employed.

Many people ask us about our son’s name, “…as in Kiefer Sutherland?” Although the spelling is the same, the association ends there. Even though we consider Mr. Sutherland to be superb performer, are huge fans of the 24 television series, and Scott has, on several occasions, been compared to the Jack Bauer actor (we don’t see it, but it’s a fine compliment), Kiefer Shannon was named after his two great grandmothers who passed away in the last couple years, Edith Caroline Kiefer Alsnauer and Jeannette Shannon Smith. We had hoped he would at least be able to meet his great grandfather Raymond Muth Alsnauer, who passed away earlier this year. His remaining great grandmother Lilly Miller and great great grandfather Dudley Cassiday are eager to meet him.

In this digital age, protocol and common courtesy have become a bit skewed. In the last couple years, it seems to have become entirely acceptable to hold a phone conversation in the middle of a restaurant, whether it serves burgers and fries or London Broil. I kept my cellphone with me at all times during the preceding ordeal, partly to remain in contact with our friends and family, and also because it has become a standard pocket item, along with my wallet and car keys. When an incoming call rang in minutes before Layla was to be prepped for surgery, I kindly explained to Layla I will let it go to voicemail. She asked who it was, and when I said it was a talent agent from Miami, she instructed me directly, “You had better take that call.”

   http://www.facebook.com/v/1332151991520 When I connected with Peggi McKinley and told her what was happening, she scolded me for answering the phone (good for her!), then proceeded to share with me an audition for the USA Network television series Burn Notice I could videotape locally and submit electronically. The only catch was, it was due by 3:00 PM the next day. Ever the Boy Scout, I happened to bring my video camera with me, but left the tripod at the house. After fashioning a platform out of one of those hospital tray tables and an over-turned trash can, I read my scene while standing over Layla, who read the other parts while holding Kiefer. That audition (done purely on adrenaline and no sleep) warranted a callback in Miami the day after we returned home from the hospital. Although I was not cast for that episode, I have since been called to audition for that series again, so there is something in my performance the producers like. I feel that the more I work on honing my skills, it is only a matter of time before you will see me on Burn Notice!

I finished last month’s entry talking about the film project Rescue Me. Originally, the shooting was to take place the same week Kiefer was due (July 20th). I discussed with the director, and the original shooting schedule accommodated my personal priorities, for which I was very thankful. When our baby arrived a week early, that set into motion a very positive and encouraging series of events, since a potential conflict was completely averted. Layla’s mother Jo Ann and brother Sam stayed with us and helped with the household workload, which gave Layla plenty of time to feed and bond with her child, and made me feel confident she was taken care of when I was out of town for this project.

My first day on set, I was impressed with the organization and level of professionalism of the cast and crew, which made me very excited to see this picture develop over the successive days and weeks. Some days, the production would face a potential setback (location suddenly unavailable, weather scrubbing an exterior shot, etc.), but the directing team of Paul A. Moore, Ric Viers and Thomas Griffin has accommodated each hurdle to keep the project moving forward. I have a couple scenes remaining, and should wrap within the coming week. Keep checking in from time to time to learn about release information later this year.

There were some wild scheduling occurrences for me at the end of July: I received notification from my Jacksonville agent Andrea Jones-Shiver about a callback in Orlando. She was a bit concerned, since the callback was on short notice; only a couple hours, which is sufficient for local talent, but not for those of us who must travel two hours to the audition. Fortunately, I was just leaving another audition in Orlando, so I could make the callback in time, before heading to Lake City for a film shoot that afternoon and evening. The callback paid off; although I was not cast in same role from the audition, I was cast in that commercial, and worked a long, fun day the following week.

Also, a change in the shooting schedule for Rescue Me (no relation to the television series of the same name) made me available to audition for Jacksonville’s premiere improvisational comedy troupe, Mad Cowford, who since have asked me to join their ranks, and I look forward to my first performance with this group. I sure would appreciate your support, so stay in touch to learn when that performance might occur.

We closed the month bringing everything together: Layla, Kiefer and I made our way to Northeast Florida Regional Airport for a quarterly dinner hosted by the St. Augustine Airport Pilots Association. The entertainment for the evening: a special video presentation demonstrating how Academy Award-winning film editor Thelma Schoonmaker developed the flight scenes for the Martin Scorsese film The Aviator. As an added treat, the Oscar she won for The Aviator was on display, and we all took turns being photographed with it. Of course, the real treat was all our friends “ooh”ing and “ahh”ing over our new baby!

Scott J. Smith

www.ScottJSmith.com

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Summer is Here!

Happy Summer, everybody!  Enjoy your barbecues, fireworks and friends, and be sure to commemorate the true reason for this patriotic holiday.  Be proud to display your American flag — it is a symbol of your home and your heritage…not that of politicians, lobbyists nor pundits.  You can disagree with the personnel who currently hold various offices and still love this great country.  God Bless the USA!
Who went to the Jacksonville Jazz Festival this year?  Layla and I did, and we had an amazing time — 2010 could possibly have been the best jazz festival ever for Northeast Florida.  The layout of the stages within walking distance of each other throughout downtown was much more convenient and created a much more exciting atmosphere than in previous years, when you had to drive or take a trolley from one distant venue to another.  There was plenty of activity between concerts, and lots of room to grow.  Eventually, they could grow large enough to consider placing events again at the gorgeous Ritz Theatre and beautiful Metropolitan Park.
I certainly hope, if they continue to make this a “Memorial Day” event, that they can extend the event into Monday, possibly with a Hemming Plaza concert by the US Navy Jazz Band, which continues as a parade people can follow to the Veterans Memorial Wall, followed by a solemn service and possibly fireworks over the Baseball Grounds, Municipal Stadium and/or Metropolitan Park.  I know the city is trying very hard to make downtown an active place.  If they can continue to throw parties like this (or make it viable for other entities to do the same), Downtown Jacksonville could be abuzz with activity year-round!
After much discussion, the State of Florida has launched a new Financial Incentive Program for film, television, commercial, music video, independent and new media productions.  I know what you’re thinking:  “You need a financial incentive to work in such an awesome location?”  Well…since innovations in art and technology have allowed practically any location to double for nearly any other, more states are discovering the untapped potential of films being produced in their area.  So, in order to compete with other areas who are courting productions away from Florida, California and New York with financial incentives of their own, in is necessary to offer similar, if not better credits, so that the other benefits of filming in The Sunshine State will win more jobs for local talent and crew, more tax revenue for the state, and more business for companies in many industries.  Submissions just started this month.  Let’s get back to work, Florida!
Most of my attention for the past several months has been preparing for the biggest role of my life: becoming a father.  I was even included during this year’s “Father’s Day” celebration with the family, which we celebrated in tandem with my sister’s birthday last month.  I have been studying as much as I can about this new responsibility, and Layla and I have been attending natural childbirth classes and keeping doctor appointments regularly, while also shopping for furniture, paint and other accessories for the nursery.  We went with a “Planes and Trains” theme, which includes the prerequisite decals on the walls (and ceiling) along with a faux finish treatment for clouds (and aerobatic smoke!).  Blankets, quilts, pillows and clothing received at recent baby showers matched the theme and color palette surprisingly well.
We have yet to decide on a pediatrician.  Two were highly recommended to us…both of which happen to be on the other side of town, but receive such glowing reviews that, supposedly, some people drive from Tampa for their child care.  Though it would be convenient to have a doctor closer to home, we’re finding it difficult to schedule a time to meet with prospective providers.  We still have a little time left, and we are confident that the ultimate decision will be the right one.
In May, I participated in a training exercise for the National Guard in Wyoming, playing an Iraqi villager.  As soon as I returned home, I received a similar request from the management at Northeast Florida Regional Airport (formerly St. Augustine / St. Johns County Airport).  Airports must regularly conduct safety drills to validate their emergency management program, which includes communication and coordination with local authorities and rescue facilities.  I, along with about thirty others, played victims of an airliner crash.  The scenario played out over the radio for several minutes, until a jet aircraft flew overhead, signaling the start of the “incident.”
The fuselage we passengers were strapped into filled with (simulated) smoke, which was disorienting enough WITHOUT the bad smell, scratchy throat and burning lungs.  Time does go by very slowly during instances like this.  What took several minutes before I was “rescued” seemed much longer, while I waited, disabled by a major “injury” preventing me from evacuating from the aircraft myself.  Many fire stations responded to this drill, and even with a sufficient number of firefighters, most were severely exhausted half-way through the exercise.  You see and hear about the heroic efforts of these men and women who seem to have unlimited strength and stamina, but when the victims number in the dozens, it is something different entirely.
It was great to see, from participating in an event like this, everything that is involved in a coordinated response to an emergency.  You think you have an idea about procedures that would take place in an actual rescue operation, but to see it in a live, practical application — there are so many minute details, any one of which could mean the difference between life and death.  It is also wonderful to know that, even though aviation disasters are extremely rare, that there are dedicated individuals to make a positive outcome.
That following week, I auditioned for a feature film, a training video and a local commercial.  I also met with several teams participating in the 48 Hour Film Project, a competition where filmmakers attempt to write, shoot and edit a short film in under 48 hours.  Certain required elements are announced at the start time, to discourage any advance production.  The team I joined, “This is Not a Duck,” identified available resources and locations, which we toured prior to the event, so we would know where we were going, and also be familiar with the layout.
The elements were announced Friday at 7:30 PM.  Our team was assigned the genre:  drama.  All teams then learned they need to have a character Todd or Tina Daubert, a wine connoisseur; must use a lamp as a prop (not just set dressing); and the line, “I love a good challenge,” must be seen or heard at some point during the film.  We gathered for a quick team meeting at the Jacksonville Landing before getting some rest before our 4:00 AM call the following morning (we really wanted to make the most use of the time we had)!
Of course, nothing ever goes quite as planned, and that is what makes the 48 Hour Film Project so challenging and fun.  The most common question at the directors’ Q&A following each screening is usually, “What was your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?”  For us, we got kicked out of our first location, even though we had permission from the authority responsible for that location; however, on weekends, it is very difficult to contact such authorities, and we did not have time to wait until we heard back, nor negotiate with the invading party.
Fortunately, the second (and last) location was completely available, and we (and a few administrative personnel) were the only people on the property.  Some scenes took a little longer to film than anticipated, and around lunchtime our director (who did not sleep the night before, writing the script) took a nap.  The editors worked on the footage we had up until that point, and the rest of us ate, relaxed, cleaned up and prepared for what would likely be an accelerated shooting schedule that afternoon.  While filming seemed to be moving right along, a major conflict occurs when you have many artists, all of whom want to put in as much effort as possible for a quality product, faced with a hard deadline.
At some point, we have to admit, “This is good enough.”  Of course, that admission didn’t come until about 3:00 in the morning (yes, that’s 23 hours shooting), leaving the editors 16 hours to sleep, eat, and produce the completed entry.  We missed turning in our film on time, not because of the effort of the talent and crew, but from a computer glitch that interrupted the digital rendering in the final moments before the cut-off.  “Vintage” was screened and well-received the following Tuesday night, but was only eligible for the “Audience Favorite” award.  I’ll share it with you on www.ScottJSmith.com as soon as I receive my copy.
Do you love your dog?  Is your dog your child (or second child…or third child) ?  Domino and Rufus are such a part of our family, we try to include them in everything we do.  We love going to sandwich shops, delis and cafes that have sidewalk seating, and love the fact that there are more retail locations that allow well-behaved, leashed pets (you know who you are, Ace Hardware in Julington Creek!).  We returned with “the kids” to the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville for Jacksonville Suns’ “Bark in the Park” on a HOT June afternoon.
  http://www.facebook.com/v/1106958761830We arrived several innings late and were treated to a discounted admission price, which paid off, since that game went thirteen innings, when I could finally run the bases with those two (probably not smart, when these two fifty-pounders have the incentive to run much faster to catch up with all the other dogs rounding the bases!).  Another “Bark in the Park” is scheduled for Sunday, July 25th.  Also, I wanted to let you know that Mike’s Dog House, the dog rescue for whom I produced Save 2 Lives last summer, will be the featured rescue at Ernie Sims’ Third Annual Car Show in Tallahassee July 9th through 11th.  Please support both these great events!
Speaking of dogs…I also had the opportunity to audition as the host of an upcoming television series that focuses on pet-friendly businesses.  Due to server issues with my email provider and scheduling issues at the audition site, I missed the (shortened) call by just minutes.  I did have the opportunity to speak with the producer and hope to have another chance at that excellent production.  eMail problems seem to have been resolved.  I recently switched domain registrars (thank you, www.1and1.com), had a candid discussion with my web host (http://www.OfficeLive.com) and look forward to continuous up-time moving forward!
This month, I will be working on a feature film by Rescue Productions titled Rescue Me.  I will play police officer Nick Portland.  This will be the second faith-based motion picture I have worked on in the past year.  This is a genre that seems to be growing very quickly right now, is increasing in popularity and demand, and becoming more “mainstream” every day.  Auditions were held at the end of June, and I have since attended a callback and table read.  The producers have a well-defined vision, professing, “This is not a movie…it is a movement!”  With the resources they have secured, this film will not be “your father’s Christian film” (you know, those poorly made flicks that focused only on message, and not nearly enough on production quality?), but more along the lines of recent successes like Fireproof and Amazing Grace.  Follow my progress through Twitter and this blog.
Everyone stay cool this summer, enjoy yourselves and have a Happy Independence Day!
Scott J. Smith
www.ScottJSmith.com
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Citizens on the Battlefield…in Wyoming???

It’s great to be back in the Sunshine State! Most of the month of May was spent working on a live performance event for military contractor Allied Container Services. This is the same work I performed in October and November, and 30-40 of the Florida talent traveled to Wyoming to continue the National Guard training exercise. The balance of the cast was made up of local performers, including those from the “Free Range Regulators,” a traveling performance group that produces gunfight shows.

Prior to my departure from Jacksonville, Layla and I volunteered as ushers for a matinee showing of The Maltese Bodkin at Theatre Jacksonville. I really wanted to audition for this play, to put my ten years directing murder mysteries and thirteen years performing in Shakespeare plays to good use. Several potential scheduling conflicts indicated I should not try out for the show, but at least Layla and I got to see this noir detective / Elizabethan hybrid.

We also caught The Clash of the Titans that day, and although we had not intended on watching the “3-D” version, that showtime was the most convenient for us. This is my first experience with the current generation of 3D, and my initial impression is that, although it complements the storytelling somewhat, it is hardly the quantum leap that sound and color brought to the medium generations ago.

Yes, I missed Avatar. I’m probably the only person on the planet who has not seen the James Cameron masterpiece.  I never heard anything about it that made me want to buy a ticket. People kept saying, “…because of the 3-D, man!” It’s got to take more than a fledgeling technology to get me excited about the movie-going experience. Give me a good story first, then I might be interested.

As for “Real-3D,” I look forward to improvements of the system before shelling out 2x the ticket price to see the same flick with an extrapolated depth. While “flying” over sweeping landscapes was awesome and really made you feel the power of this new tool, it took me out of that “suspension of disbelief” during most of the scenes. Unless the technicians key the dimensions for everything on the screens, backgrounds tend to appear flat — actual constructed sets appear as painted mattes in the final product. This was most notable early in the movie when Perseus was brought into the “Great Hall” shortly after his capture, and also later, when rock faces provided for a backdrop.  Another drawback of the technology, is that it is hard to track fast-moving objects, so every fight scene, or character that passed quickly close to the camera seemed to “strobe,” rather than have a smooth, fluid movement. Overall, the movie was a good retelling of the 1981 Harry Hamlin stop-action feature.

Getting to Wyoming was an adventure by itself. Some drove 2,000 miles over several days across our beautiful country (some through the Tennessee floods), while others, including yours truly, opted to enjoy the scenery in just a few hours at thirty-four thousand feet. We still had a three-hour drive from the nearest airport to our final destination, so five of us piled into a Ford Explorer to make that trek. Request to the State of Colorado: You might want to put signs along Interstate 25 northbound that reads, “Last Gas, Food, Water, Restroom, Cellular Signal, etc. For 200 miles,” especially for us East Coasters who aren’t used to being without such basic amenities for more than fifteen miles at a time!

We arrived at the Sage Brush Motel late that evening, and decided not to pack any more activity into this day. Fortunately, our call time the following day was at noon, which gave us ample time to finish settling into our temporary residence. Those who arrived a couple days early located Ben’s Bar and Kelly’s Bar, the major entertainment in this town, and used the morning on the first day to recover from their thorough investigation of these two venues.

On our walk back from work to the motel one day, Archie Cogollos and I noticed a regional track meet was being hosted by the town’s high school, so we decided to check it out. I went, thinking this might be the only entertainment all month, but I learned Arch ran track in high school and was really admiring these athletes. Being out of town and knowing absolutely no one, we ended up cheering for absolutely everyone. We were there for about six hours. Our voices paid the toll for the next several days.

Something we were both amazed by, coming from hyper-sensitive Florida, in this town of 1,100 people who, no doubt, know everyone who is a local, not a single parent or coach challenged our presence. Archie said it best, “It kinda restores your faith in humanity!” Throughout the rest of my time there, I noticed, with great delight, the frequency at which strangers made intentional eye contact, accompanied by a wave, or a smile, or both! It was quite refreshing.

     http://www.facebook.com/v/1282793117579 One of my roommates, Doug, encountered a local rancher, looking for a few new workers. The job offer sounded too good to be true…so you know where this is going. He promised an income potential in six figures, full-time, year-round, even though half the year would be “slow.” He would visit the hotel on a daily basis, inviting Doug out for a business lunch or dinner, to continue discussions. Half-way through our stay, we learned that this guy has swindled others…now, we had to figure out how to discourage him from his frequent visits.

Most nights, we gathered around a “fire barrel” and shared stories, discussed the day’s job, joked, drank, ate, and otherwise enjoyed each other’s company. It was a great way to wind down at the end of the day, and fostered a sense of community among us, which I am sure contributed to our overall performance for the project. Since we were portraying villagers, we essentially created our own village in a motel on Highway 26.

The fire barrel was the only amenity at the Sage Brush Motel…aside from WiFi connectivity, which we stressed every evening. It would have been nice to have modern climate controls, a solid roof, sheet-rock over the particleboard walls, insect-free carpet, permission to use the on-site laundry facility, and hosts that didn’t argue openly with their customers, but being one of only two lodging locations in the entire town, you take what you can get, I suppose.

I brought some books and magazines with me, with the hopes of getting some long overdue reading done. In the first week in Guernsey, Wyoming, I finished all three books, and an issue of AOPA Pilot (the first time I read an issue from cover to cover in years!). After that, I occupied my free time by walking throughout the town, taking pictures and composing videos to share on Facebook.

Better Dads, Stronger Sons by Rick Johnson was a “father’s guide” as told by a hunter who did not have a close relationship with his father, and only found God late in life. I had trouble relating to this author, since I was raised as a Christian, don’t hunt, and have always had a close relationship with my own dad. Although it was a good synopsis of his own journey into fatherhood, it was more entertaining to read this subjective account, than an informative “guide.”

The Father’s Guide to the Meaning of Life by Joe Kita, however, was fantastic read. Joe’s use of humor and numerous, varied anecdotes made this a quick read and an enjoyable experience. Of course, 136 six-inch pages with wide margins also makes for a quick read, but the content on those pages is very informative and entertaining. After every couple chapters, Mr. Kita inserts “insights,” which are resources or two-paragraph stories he wanted to share about being a father, that don’t really fit into any of the specified chapters. New dads, pick this book up!

I also re-read casting director Lori Wyman’s The Organic Actor, an approach at auditioning and performing for film and television from the perspective of a seasoned casting director. I have taken Lori’s Acting for Film weekend workshop, and many of the stories she shared then also appear in her book. Whether you are an actor or not, you would be amazed at the level of professionalism (or lack thereof) she has encountered during her years of casting for major motion pictures and television series. This book is a wealth of information that can be consumed in brief “nuggets” or as a cover-to-cover read.

On May 12th, it snowed. The roads were just passable, and this Florida boy packed for cool, but not cold weather. I managed by wearing layers under my costume. That morning, we had a snowball fight and made a two-foot tall snowman (er, um, Snow Woman…excuse me…or I guess Snow Girl would be more accurate, the only anotomical cues being pine-needle eyelashes). The military vehicles tested traction on the hillside to ensure we would be able to leave at the end of the day; of course, if it snowed for the next twelve hours, there was the potential we could be stranded. By lunchtime, however, most of the snow in our area had melted, but we heard from performers working at higher elevations, that they had 5-7 inches of snow, longer snowball battles and a life-size snowman!

http://www.facebook.com/v/1295499955242Coming from Florida, I’m used to the weather changing quickly and frequently. In Wyoming, the same is also true, but the terrain is much less forgiving. The clay roads are much less porous than the sandy “dirt” roads of the Sunshine State. After a drizzle, the roads become as slick as ice, and after a thundershower, the surface melts into a six-inch deep pasty, gooey mess. Half the vehicles we drove for this operation had four wheel drive, some of which worked intermittently. It was a gamble whether or not the two-wheel-drive vehicles could make the trip when the roads were in that condition. On those days, several vehicles were towed back to the “paddock.” When the roads finally dry, they’re hard as concrete, shaped by the ruts created by the tires of all these vehicles, which make the surface even more uneven than the “washboard” dirt roads we Floridians are used to.

All-in-all, it was an educational and rewarding experience, introducing these troops to that “unknown” element civilian interaction creates during a military operation. Although the soldiers are quite proficient at various tasks, these live action scenarios force them to use their creativity, intelligence and reliance on communication and the chain-of-command to think “out of the box” to resolve issues that may not occur during traditional training programs.

It was great to get home, spend time with Layla’s family (who were in town during my absence) before they left, and get back into my regular routine. I am back to auditioning for commercials and films, and have a couple potential website design clients. This past week, we had a baby shower at our church, and some friends are hosting another next week. Now that I’m home, I need to get to work preparing the nursery room for its imminent occupant!

Scott J. Smith

www.ScottJSmith.com

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Preparing for the New Arrival…and a little Tech Support…

Many mark springtime as a fresh start for our personal and professional lives, along with gardening, house cleaning and repair, and rededicating ourselves to a healthier lifestyle.  We performed a modest upgrade to our kitchen, installing new(er) appliances, and continued our long, slow process of converting the office/storage room into a nursery.  Most of the work was organizing, filing and shredding financial documents.  We also discovered that many items that laid beneath a layer of dust in the closet were highly sought after treasures, once we listed them on eBay, which generated a little revenue to help with the room’s transformation.
April 2nd, Good Friday, marked our fifth anniversary, which we commemorated at Shula’s 347 Grill, known for their top quality steaks.  We were drooling over the red meat selections, but when the server arrived to take our order, we both surprisingly chose seafood items!  Layla preferred the grilled shrimp, while I enjoyed the glazed salmon.  The portions were satisfying and delicious, and we were treated to some savory desserts, compliments of the manager.
Since our prenatal care is conducted at a teaching hospital, they also have a strong emphasis on patient education.  Three times each year, they offer a “baby shower” of sorts, to provide expectant parents with vital information on a broad range of childcare topics.  Around mid-day, a drawing is held, where over a hundred gifts are awarded, including some pricey Pack’n’Plays, car seats and bassinets.  Some guests went home with a mother-load of booty, thanks to companions winning on their behalf.  We were quite appreciative to take a bouncer home with us.
Several local radio stations hosted another baby shower the following weekend, marketing it as a “city-wide baby shower.”  It’s basically a scavenger hunt where new parents (and their accomplices) race through the convention center collecting “stamps” as fast as they can, to be eligible for a prize drawing at the end of the day.  Once inside, you could find 30-minute seminars on a variety of topics, and hundreds of vendor booths — a majority of which had nothing to do with parenting newborns.  Needless to say, we didn’t stay long.

By the way, does anybody know of a good “dad” website?  There’s MomsLikeMe.com, iMom.com and MomCentral.com.  iDad.com is an Internet design firm, DadCentral.com is very weak on content, and DadsLikeMe.com is just a form asking if such a website is wanted or needed (and the form looks really old, too).  It wouldn’t be hard, publishers: just buy some masculine domain names, change the color palette from pastels to bold “sports” schemes, mirror the RSS feeds you push to the mommy sites and then add some dad-centric content.

At a recent identity theft protection class, most of the information was common sense, but one thing stood out:  You know these credit cards that, rather than swiping the magnetic strip, you just wave in front of the register to initiate the transaction?  Well, it doesn’t take much for criminals to use a similar device to pull your credit card information without you ever taking the card out of your wallet, pocket or purse.  They could be standing behind you in line, and “blink”!…your identity is stolen!  I called the one credit card company that issued me such a card, asking for a standard card (explaining why I did not want it)…and they sent me a new card with the no-swipe feature.  I guess I’ll have to start using one of my other accounts…
Layla and I accepted an invitation to a reception hosted by Devlin and Christina Mann of the Backlight Theatre Group welcoming acting coach Rob Clare, who was in town teaching a Shakespeare intensive course at the Florida Theatre.  We reconnected with some old friends and were introduced to some new ones.  That evening, Devlin announced plans for Backlight’s upcoming season, as well as a residency program.
I was able to attend Rob Clare’s workshop on two of the three nights.  It was quite educational watching him work with other performers on stage.  Copious amounts of notes were taken by the participants, as well as the observers in the audience.  I had prepared a piece (one of my first Shakespearean roles ever) from Henry IV, Part One, where Harry berates John Falstaff at a pub.  I was hoping I could have a little fun with my good friend Redgie Gutshall.
Alas, that night, he did not attend, so I really didn’t have the heart to work on that piece.  I was working on a scene from Hamlet during the bi-weekly Shakespeare labs, but did not feel comfortable enough with the scene to get the greatest benefit from Mr. Clare.  Fortunately, a couple other monologues have stuck in my head over the years, so after quickly reviewing the text, I performed a scene from King John, for which Rob Clare had a great amount of input.
http://www.facebook.com/v/1254159001744 That same week was Sun ‘n’ Fun, the largest aviation trade show and fly-in in the Eastern United States.  I couldn’t attend this year, but got a sneak peek of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association‘s sweepstakes plane for 2010.  AOPA made the trip from their Frederick, Maryland headquarters to Lakeland, Florida rather interesting, as they performed a “Road and Runway Rally,” matching the traveling capabilities of the Remos GX with the SmartCar.  Their last stop (and staging point for the flight to Lakeland-Linder Regional Airport) was St. Augustine, Florida, my home field, so I (and other members of the St. Augustine Airport Pilots Association) welcomed the two teams, and took plenty of pictures and video.
Up and coming filmmaker Wayne Bradstreet cast me in his short film that was produced on the west side of Jacksonville.  Last month, while waiting to audition for another film, he asked me to read his script “Death Comes For…”  The crew he assembled worked very well together, communicated openly and kept the day’s shoot on schedule, which permitted me time to audition for a regional commercial in Orlando that afternoon, before returning to Jacksonville for the last night of the Rob Clare Shakespeare workshop.
The next day, I got a call from my mother:  my grandfather wasn’t well.  She was on her way to the airport when she called, and the tone in her usually steady voice let me know this could be the final trip, and she wanted the family to be there.  I called my wife, knowing the pregnancy and her recent (scheduled) absences from work might prevent her from traveling, then after picking up her car from the service department at the dealership, I started making my own travel arrangements.
I had hoped to get home (or to a library) in time to check Orbitz, Kayak or Travelocity, but it was getting late, and I was concerned about getting a flight from Jacksonville that day.  That’s when I discovered the wonder of Visa Signature Concierge service.  I am not sure if all Visa cardholders have this privilege or not…it’s one of those “amenities” you see before throwing that membership services directory in the trash.  The number was on the back of the card and the representative was very helpful and understood my situation completely.
Within fifteen minutes, I had a surprisingly affordable flight booked, with just enough time to get home, pack an overnight bag and get to the airport.  There was a discrepancy on the itinerary (which I didn’t learn until I checked my email a couple days later), showing my return flight to be to Cleveland and not Jacksonville.  I contacted the concierge service to confirm my flight, and suggest they update their travel booking system to automate the itinerary, to eliminate the errors introduced by manual key-entry.  My initial seat on the plane was quite secluded: behind the rear galley, and right next to the left engine…I mean, you look out the window, and your entire view is obstructed by the turbofan, just inches away from the cabin.  Before takeoff, I moved to a vacant seat next to my mother, and it was nice to sit together, especially on a trip like this.
My Uncle Bill drove us from the airport to see Grandpa.  He couldn’t speak, so the family talked to him for about an hour or so, before going to bed and trying to get some sleep, ourselves.  On Friday, we gathered at the nursing home, brought Grandpa’s black Schnauzer Lottie, who cuddled up with him on the bed, and shared stories with each other, hoping Grandpa could hear us and appreciate our company.  The facility’s chaplain sang a blessing — it sounded like a Southern spiritual hymn.  It was beautiful.
Saturday morning, as we were finishing breakfast, Bill called us (he went to the nursing home early), and said, “They told me it’s just minutes.”  As we arrived, we saw facility personnel, including the housekeeper, crying, which prepared us for that morning’s visit.  He was still.  The family gathered around his bed, and my Aunt Karen said a prayer to commend his spirit.
We then contacted the rest of the family, so they could prepare for the funeral.  It was tough talking to Layla, not only because he was the only grandfather I had for the last thirty years and my only remaining grandparent, but also because the two of them had such a strong bond.  They connected on their first meeting and spent so much time together on every visit.  I knew the news would be just as hard for her.  She considered making the trip over the next couple days, and with the blessing of her employer, she traveled to Columbus for the funeral.
The service was amazing.  It was the first time I attended one that included full military honors.  My grandfather flew “The Hump” in China during World War II, and the servicemen who attended the service were such a blessing.  After the ceremony, we had an intimate reception at a local restaurant before I returned home.
The rest of the month consisted of more auditions and preparing for my son’s upcoming arrival.
I also had time to repair my brother-in-law’s laptop.  We brought it home after our last visit to the Florida Panhandle in March to take a look at it, but his step-dad already performed a thorough diagnostic, so it really was just an academic exercise, since I doubt there was anything he missed.
This is a Toshiba Satellite laptop with Windows Vista that had an error while booting up.  Normally, you attempt to start in “Safe Mode” when this happens, but in this case, the same error occurred.  I made sure there were no disks or data cards in any of the ports, and tried starting the computer using various methods, to no avail.  Since Phillip already attempted restoring the computer with the factory restore CD, I tried that next, setting the computer’s BIOS (which I still could still access) to boot from the CD drive rather than the hard drive.  This, too, was unsuccessful.
I was flabbergasted and befuddled.  These are typically the “last-ditch” efforts for correcting problems with computers, especially the latter, which deletes all information from the hard drive, and resets it to “like new” condition.  My best guess is, since the power cord for this computer is damaged (and the battery is completely burned out) that, during a Windows Update, the cord was jiggled, taking power from the unit during a time a critical patch was being installed, thus permanently damaging the start-up routine.  This, of course, is entirely a guess, but a hypothesis that just happens to be supported by the evidence.
I slept on it, a little disappointed in myself that I couldn’t fix the problem (everything can be fixed, can’t it?).  Then I remembered there are free Linux operating systems that supposedly can run directly from a CD or USB jump drive.  A while back, when upgrading an old desktop computer, I made copies of Ubuntu and Damn Small Linux distributions, so I decided to pop one of those disks in this laptop, just to see what would happen.
Immediately, I got the Ubuntu startup screen with the message, “This will format and partition your hard drive.  Do you want to continue?”  Ohhh…yeah!  The install took about as long as a Windows install or upgrade, and I dreaded the power cord failing, thus forcing me to restart the hours-long procedure.  But it didn’t.  The new operating system was completely installed, and I was ready to “goof around” with the OS I never used before.  Unfortunately, a license key is required in order to access the system for the first time, even though it’s free; at least, that was true for the old Version 8.1 that I happened to have — I think they changed this on successive versions.
So, I sat, tapping my feet and gritting my teeth, wondering what the next step could be.  Hmmm.  What is the next step?  There’s gotta be a way past this.  What to do?  What to do?
Wait a minute — the computer now starts up properly and gets to the network login screen at least, right?  What would happen…if I now dropped the Toshiba Windows Vista Restore CD in the drive?  What could possibly go wrong?…if I messed it up, I can probably at least get it back to the Ubuntu login screen again…right?  So, I  gave it a shot, and Voila!…Trumpets sounded, the crowd cheered, confetti fell from the skies, a rainbow formed overhead, the birds sang in harmony, and all was right in the world (at least in my mind) !
The install was completely successful, and I spent the next several days getting all the Windows Updates and current versions of Adobe Acrobat Reader and OpenOffice.org installed…using my Toshiba laptop power cord to minimize the risk of any future download interruptions.  The computer is now as good as new, as certified by one Scott J. Smith, and tucked away in its case, waiting for its rightful owner to pick it up.  I already emailed him a couple websites where he can get a new battery and power cord at affordable prices.
So, something you might want to do, in case your “last ditch effort” doesn’t work, is just download one of the free Linux distributions and burn it to a CD or DVD, and keep it with your other restoration software.  Worst case scenario, you’ll need to learn how to use Ubuntu or Damn Small Linux, both of which offer great online resources and have a graphical interface Windows users are familiar with.
I finished the month with a re-shoot of a commercial I worked on in March.  Once the piece was produced, it looked too similar to a competitor’s product, so they decided to recall the cast and re-shoot.  It seemed to go by relatively quickly, which was a good thing, after staring into the sun and reflectors for a couple hours!
There is still plenty of preparation required prior to our son’s arrival.  I think we’ll make it.
Scott J. Smith
www.ScottJSmith.com
Posted in Entertainment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

March: Lion or Lamb? You Make the Call…

Isn’t it March that comes in like a Lion and goes out like a Lamb? I don’t know…it seemed to end the way it began. Sure, the cold, rainy weather subsided, but everything else has been rather steady.  I’ve said it before, “I love challenges.” That’s probably why I get involved in so many things, so I can accomplish more, and possibly learn something new along the way. Of course, I always task myself with so many activities, that managing my schedule is a challenge by itself.


The first half of March saw me scrambling to complete the video presentation for my church’s 45th anniversary. Coordinating times to interview pastors and members early this month was very difficult, and rescheduling sessions, given the rapidly approaching deadline, was nothing less than nerve-wracking. Once I had footage of most of the interviews, I also had to shoot footage of the ministries discussed. I also learned that there were harsh transitions from one topic to the next, which prompted me to write in a narrator, ably performed by Advent Lutheran Church member George Howard.


Of course, as can be expected, I was called to a commercial shoot the day I planned on recording George’s scenes. Claire Michel dutifully stepped in and worked with George that afternoon, ensuring I’d be able to use the much-needed footage. During the next several days, I slowly pieced together the 45-minute presentation, with breaks only for sleep, auditions and quality time with my wife.


Since I was working on software that was bundled with my laptop, some unplanned (but to be expected, I suppose) delays worked their way into the process. The Friday afternoon before the anniversary celebration, I began encoding the final product. My estimate for rendering the video was off by half an hour, which made me tardy to the “rehearsal” that night. After the computer started processing the file, I realized there were some inconsistencies in the audio I just had to correct, especially considering the acoustics of the space where it was planned to be shown, but I dare not interrupt this time-consuming process. Once completed, I raced to church with the video as it was, dropped off the “rough draft,” and returned home to put the final touches on the presentation.


The anniversary celebration was a wonderful time. The food, lovingly prepared, was delicious; the emcees reminded us of the time when the church was formed; and the band entertained us with songs from that era. My contribution was also well received, and complemented those “Remember When…” discussions that were taking place during the luncheon.  I had my camera with me, so I could share the event with people who could not attend, and returned home after the luncheon to assemble the new footage.

 

In years past, I utilized the full-service provided by Kingdom Tapes, a Christian-based business that focuses on premium audio and video equipment and services. While the quality of their products is first-rate, Layla shared with me a “Do-It-Yourself” online duplication service, whose prices, I seriously doubt, can be beat.  Mind you, Kunaki is not intended for novices, but after your first experience with them, no matter your level of expertise, you’ll definitely want to use them again. In fact, after producing the anniversary video, I uploaded previous DVDs I created.

I’d like to share with you my experience with Kunaki, but before I move forward, let me put your minds at ease — I am not an agent for the company, nor do I receive commissions from them. Their prices are so low, they don’t make enough profit to offer an affiliate program.  When you first visit the site, you will be thoroughly underwhelmed by its text-only home page. No Flash, Java or ActiveX here. Navigation is clunky at best. On my third video, I still had to click around to figure out how to get my file uploaded to their server. I think I have it down pat now.


After you create your account, you must download their acquisition program. Power users might save this program to their computer for future use, but it’s so small, I just re-download it from their website each time and select “Run,” rather than “Save.” It asks for publishing information about your project (Title, Run-time, DVD Region, etc.), and then asks for information to create the disk and cover labels and insert. You may select from their limited photo gallery, or upload your own images. A preview shows a sample DVD case, which you can turn over and look inside, to verify how your final product will be presented.


A word of caution before the next step: In regular type, indistinguishable from the rest of the instructions, is the statement, “Upload may take some time.” This qualifies for the understatement of the millennium. Actually, I’m glad the application doesn’t hoard all the bandwidth during the upload process — that likely would have initiated some marital turf wars. Let me just say that, with DSL Lite (128 kbps upstream), it took nearly 24 hours per gigabyte (roughly 20 minutes of video). It was the better part of a week to get the file onto their servers. So, you’ve been forewarned…either have a super-fast Internet connection, or the patience of Job!


Once uploaded, you can order a preview copy for free. The free preview is one per account, not one per video; just as an FYI. You can order as many copies as you would like.   The first ten copies are always offered at $1.00 apiece. Are you not floored? A fully duplicated DVD (or CD), with a custom label, cover art and insert, shrink-wrapped for one dollar per copy…it’s nuts! If you need more than ten copies per shipment, the cost is slightly more…usually between $0.75 and $1.75 per copy. Typical handling time is 24 hours, and you have a variety of shipping options from which to choose.


     As a matter of fact, if you would like, Kunaki will even set up a storefront for you (for free), where you can sell your DVDs and CDs online. They take care of all the order-taking, money-collecting, merchant fees, and handling and shipping…all you have to do is promote the link to your product or online store. To put this into perspective, some of the major players out there (Amazon, CD Baby, etc.) charge about $5.00 per item sold through their service, and you still have to provide the product. Kunaki charges nothing to list with them, does all the work for you for only $1.00 per item, which is automatically taken out of online orders, before a check or PayPal deposit is forwarded to you.


This isn’t just for my film-maker friends out there. Imagine making a fun home video to send as gifts, or if you have a recording of your kids’ athletic or dance events, you can quickly and easily share it with the other parents (and make a little uniform/dance outfit money on the side), or create a video to help promote your home business via mail or at vendor fairs.  Well, that’s it. I just had to brag about this service. Again, there are no “kick-backs,” but if you want to help out my church, you can order your own copy of Advent’s 45th Anniversary or support Mike’s Dog House with a copy of Save 2 Lives.


While we’re on this topic, a very good friend of mine, Susan Carcaba, asked me to prepare a demo reel for her. She had new video footage of work she has done recently, and wanted an updated reel to promote her talents as an actress. Although this project wasn’t nearly as complex as the church video, a couple of the segments presented some unique obstacles to overcome.  Given the recent activity, I have considered upgrading to a more comprehensive video-editing suite…now I just have to choose which one…

 

Anyway, somewhere during all that, I was also able to shoot a promotional video for Winn-Dixie, and audition for several commercials, including a regional spot for Time Warner, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and the television series Burn NoticeIt was the first time I was called to audition for that series, and I am excited at the prospect of working with that production this season.  Although I was not cast for that particular episode, I received a few candid, complimentary and encouraging words before I returned home.

 

…and talk about “biting off more than you can chew…” I worked on a commercial in Central Florida one day during March, when I had a live performance of “Death by Decaf” scheduled that same night near TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.  Of course, you never want to press a director and crew to conform to your “personal” schedule, and then again, you don’t want to slough your commitment to any production.  I nearly got burned that day, and can only be very thankful that traffic along I-4 and I-95 allowed me to honor all my responsibilities.  It was a learning experience, for sure, and I realize how lucky I was that I hadn’t stressed either production’s budget or reputation.

Layla and I also started car (truck, SUV) shopping, in part to prepare for toting a stroller, diaper bag and other baby-support equipment and supplies, at which neither her Mazda RX8 nor my Pontiac Solstice would be effective.  Also, boarding and disembarking from either of our “sportscars” are starting to pose a challenge of a different kind for her.  We found a couple used Ford Explorers (not a difficult task, mind you), which seemed to satisfy most of our requirements for a third vehicle, and at the end of the month, decided between the two.  Since the purchase, a few “quirks” have surfaced, which we are dealing with now.  (You get what you pay for, right?)

 

As a side note, we discovered those “techniques” people share with you about how to handle sales professionals really do work…even though it wasn’t our intent to “play the game.”  We knew exactly how much we could afford (the most important and most difficult decision to make), and let the salesman know that number up front.  He proceeded to show us a vehicle that was outside of our range.  We reminded him of our financial limitation, after which he offered a test drive.  The vehicle was quite sound, and was worth every dollar we were willing to pay, but not what he was asking.

 

Remember this:  Car sales representatives work on commission.  Their time is too precious to show you a vehicle they know you can’t afford.  If you say one number, which is lower than what is written on the car or truck and the salesman insists, he’ll either have to show you a different vehicle, negotiate closer to your offer, or write off that very expensive time he invested in showing you a vehicle he knew you couldn’t afford.  I don’t think you’ll find too many who will take that big of a risk.  He went through the typical routine of “going to talk to his manager,” yadda, yadda, then came back with a slightly better offer, but still nowhere near what we stated was an absolute.

 

We continued our search, and since Layla’s cellphone battery died that day, we had no way of knowing (until the next day), that that salesman called us back, very likely before we drove away from his dealership, with the number we proposed to him from the very beginning.  Like they say, if you are willing to pay more, the dealer will gladly take your money, but if you stick to your budget, the vehicle you find will be a perfect fit, you can appreciate the honesty of the professional who worked with you on the deal, and you will have no regrets.  In the end, we did not purchase that truck, only because we found a comparable one for a little less, but we appreciate that dealership working with us, even if it took us being willing to leave (and actually leaving) in order for us to see eye-to-eye.

Now, we move into April:  The weather is getting warmer (hopefully not too warm too fast), students, teachers and other seasonal employees have Summer in their sights, and the annual frustration-fest called “tax season” has reared its ugly head once more.  After all the receipt-hunting and mileage-tallying that consumes our time when preparing forms for the IRS, many of us look for a better way to manage our financial lives to make this time each year less stressful.  Taking advantage of systems such as Quickbooks, Mint.com or (the soon to be discontinued) Microsoft Money are a great way to keep and organize records.  I’d also encourage you to seek the advice of financial professionals who are familiar with the unique nature of your industry, to help you not only during tax time, but throughout the year to make smart business decisions.

After all, studies show financial concerns are the top stressors for most people, which can lead to health concerns and negatively affect our quality of life.  To lead a long, happy, healthy, fulfilling life, eliminating (or at least reducing) such stressors are an essential first step.  Something to chew on until next we meet…

  

Scott J. Smith

www.ScottJSmith.com

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Let’s ROCK 2010!!!

Whoopsie!

So, I missed the February entry entirely. Suffice it to say, I have been rather busy, and taking some time to jot down my thoughts usually was superceded by other things, which you can now read in the treacherously overdue posting that now appears prior to this one.  I almost let March get away from me, too.  If you can only take Scott in small doses, and have already sated yourself with the February note, come back in a few days – this March entry will still be here!

Something tells me, I should take up the game of golf…again.  This used to be a past-time I looked forward to spending with my dad, grandfather and sometimes uncle.  I even tried out for the high school golf team one year.  While my skill was not competition-level (directly proportional to the amount of time spent practicing, I am sure), I have been told my swing is very good, technically-speaking.  Lately, I have been called on several auditions asking me to demonstrate that swing.

On the first, I asked to borrow my dad’s clubs for the audition.  The swing still felt natural, and the movement fluid.  My intention was to get to Orlando an hour or so early, so I could get to the driving range, to fine-tune the delivery.  The rain…came down…in sheets!  It took me over half an hour to get through the I-95/I-295 interchange in Jacksonville, and I still had almost two hours to go (if the highway was dry, that is).  Although I wasn’t late to the audition, I didn’t have time to practice my drive, except outside the country club where the audition was being held.

The next golf audition came a couple weeks later.  Since this started looking like a trend, I purchased some equipment…not a full set (yet), but enough to get proficient on my own time.  A last-minute self-tape audition came in the day I was planning on going out to the range, so again, I planned on arriving at the audition at least an hour beforehand to work on my swing.  This time, there was not a cloud in the sky, but a traffic accident in the opposite direction on I-4 affected my lanes of traffic, and again, I went into the audition with a good…but not great swing.

The third time, I finally had a chance to get to the driving range.  I spent some time just getting back into the swing of things (take that pun, for what it’s worth!), then taped my drive and fairway iron shots from various angles.  I have to admit, I am quite pleased with where the swing is right now.  It felt good to get back on the range.  I noticed that, while the distance and direction were consistent throughout the session, my accuracy was off by the same amount on every shot, though you couldn’t tell on the video.  I had my swing analyzed, and am currently applying corrections to nail that next audition.  Thanks, Dad!

Also, this month saw our nephew’s 2nd birthday.  We had a huge bash at a nearby park with a gaggle of other two-year-olds.  It was a blast.  We explored the hiking trails with the dogs, and enjoyed some fantastic barbecue and cookie-CAKE!  Trey was the perfect guest-of-honor, and had a treasure-trove for his daddy to load into the van for the trip home.

 http://cdn.livestream.com/grid/LSPlayer.swf?channel=orlandoshakes&clip=flv_cec5c315-384f-42b6-9c87-5bc6a9c6978f&autoPlay=false The Friday before Valentine’s Day, the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre hosted their First Annual Sonnet-a-Thon: All 154 Sonnets read by actors, volunteers and local celebrities.  It was cold and rainy that day, so most of the audience consisted of the participants, but we all had a fantastic time.  Occasionally, some walkers-by would stop and take in the action.  Too bad it wasn’t sunny and warm.  Mine was Sonnett 129, from the “Dark Lady” series.  The topic was “Lust:” don’t read anything into that!

The following weekend, Heinz Casting sponsored the Florida Addy Awards at the Orlando Science Center.  This was really cool — I got to work my “interactive theater” chops with some other talented improvisers!  We were mad scientists who were trying to start our own “Mad Men“-type advertising agency.  We greeted and networked with the attendees, and invited them to our “showcase” at a cocktail reception prior to the awards ceremony.  This was a blast, and the night seemed to fly by.

Layla and I also had lunch with the Jacksonville Roadster club for the first time in a long time.  Their monthly events always seemed to fall on a date when we had something else going on (go figure!).  In February, they met at Clark’s Fish Camp, a wonderful local seafood establishment, not far from our home — we couldn’t pass this one up.  There wasn’t a scheduled ride for this event…just some time to relax and chat with each other…though some folks had a scenic trip on the way to Clark’s.  For us, it was just a couple miles of top-down bliss!

Rita Manyette and I teamed up again for a Saint Augustine Alligator Farm commercial.  She played my wife and we had two pre-teen “children.”  These young actors were great.  We had a wonderful time taking in the sights…er, um, I mean working.  We checked out “Maximo,” the 15-foot Saltwater Crocodile, who has a nearly 10-foot vertical leap.  No joke — we thought he was going to eat the camera overhead!  Wait until you see the ad.

We finished the month with a screening of Daniel’s Lot in Altamonte Springs.  Everyone who participated on the film was invited to the AMC Theatres there, where we attended a brief church service, got our drink and popcorn, and enjoyed the latest offering from Faith and Power Pictures.  It was great to see the whole story of Daniel Carr and the challenges he faced come to life on the big screen.  Congratulations, everybody, especially De and Sue Miller.  Be proud!

Scott J. Smith

www.ScottJSmith.com

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