Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Doldrums in the last weeks of 2015



And so this year draws to a close... and so does my blogging!

I've worked at being a background actor and loved it... not sure what direction I'll be going in for 2016.  Got my 3 waivers -but I'm not keen on joining the union (they can't guarantee work).  I've been asked to be a freelance adviser for a small group doing an indie short.  Not sure how that will pan out but I'll give it a shot. And I've been taking up more writing tasks -one of which will be an entry into a play writing festival.  Meh.... tbd.  If that works out, I'll continue to blog. Otherwise, it's on to writing the Great American Novel.

Best wishes to "all" who have read my blogs... I think there was 1 (my follower).  Hope the world finds peace in 2016... (such are the musings of an eternal optimist).

Love to NYC and the rest of the world,
-nyc_flux

p.s. I'm voting for Frank Underwood for POTUS.


p.p.s.  No matter what, the show must go on...



Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Gotta Love those commercial auditions...


Trouble is, 99.9999% of the time, there's no result -even if you get a call back!

The other day I went for an audition about a popular drink... making a comeback.  I was paired up with a businessman type and we were directed to reconnect... converse... and even dance!?  We were great (I'm not kidding -we really were.)!  And frankly, the crew at the audition studio was terrific.  We all had a lot of fun with the directing and frolicking.  The customary "thank you" after about ten minutes -and exit, stage left!

The business guy and I shook hands outside in the hall. Congratulating each others performance (we really were a good team).  And then parted. A scenario that I've re-experienced a bunch of times. Each time coming away with a glimmer (the teeniest of the tiny) of hope that "They're bound to call us back!". But that's a very rare occurrence.  And after a few hours... usually on the train ride home, I know it!  And adjust to it.

So we, strange actors, take it with a grain of elation.  After all -we got a chance to "perform". And for a few minutes, WE WERE THE PART.  You can't get that from a 9 to 5 job.



Wednesday, September 09, 2015

But I missed out on a Woody film? (No, I didn't!!)




Fred Astaire was not only a star of Hollywood musicals but also an impeccable dresser.  His custom tailcoats were so well tailored they remained perfectly placed throughout the most exuberant of dance routines.  One of his most popular films was in the 1935 smash hit Top Hat which featured the Irving Berlin song "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails"


I can't complain... it's been a banner year for showbiz gigs in 2015. The list for me alone so far has been:

Odyssey
Elementary
The Knick
Gotham
SPRINT commercial
Billions
The Following
The Knick
Elementary
Americans
The Knick
The Knick
Crime
Crime
The Americans
Violet
Blue Bloods
Person of Interest
Person of Interest
The Knick
The Knick
The Knick
The Americans
The Knick
Crime
Happyish
Elementary
Jim Gaffigan Show
The Knick
The Knick
The Knick
Money Monster
The Affair
Madoff-miniseries
Red Oaks
Red Oaks
Red Oaks
Red Oaks
Wolves
Red Oaks
Red Oaks
Red Oaks
DareDevil2-Ringside
Rock and Roll Project
Rock and Roll Project
Madam Secretary
Blue Bloods
Billions
The Affair
Blue Bloods
Elementary
Mozart in the Jungle
Blue Bloods
Blacklist
Blacklist
Blacklist
Rock and Roll Project
Blindspot
Going In Style
DareDevil2-Ringside
Crime To Remember

And there's still the rest of the year... BUT, the one most coveted gig that I missed out on was an upcoming Woody film where an internet post in early August gave me a chance to submit my stats.  And upon my returning from my California trip the past month, I received a response.  I WAS SELECTED... for a fitting. So I sent in my stats and photo, spoke to the wardrobe department about the specifics of my sizes -and received a firm date for the "clothing of my bod".  All of my extras buddies were jealous -none of them got this far.  My wife was elated and surprised at the uniqueness of the situation. "YOU... in a Woody film?"

And so, at the appointed time I was ready to get on the train, grinning internally with glee...  for the fitting, when I got the message from the casting agency.  "It's not going to work... I'm sorry but Woody is very specific about the waist size: NO ONE LARGER THAN 35!  Very sorry... have to cancel your fitting...make it up to you next time..."  Whereupon my penis shrank to subatomic proportions.

So be it. There wasn't much I could do about my larger waist size.  I'll just have to rationalize it this way:  "At least I was almost in a Woody film! Few others have done even that... mope, mope, mope..."

Epilogue:
In the summer of 2016, I was selected to be a beachgoer in Woody's new movie: Wonder Wheel.  Got to see the principals passing by me (and so did hundreds of other extras).  But watching Woody do his slo-mo walk around the sand, giving instructions to his director of photography, discussing the scene with Juno Temple and Justin Timberlake was terrific. In fact, the whole experience was life-time-memorable... and worth the wait!

Friday, April 03, 2015

Not gonna do it...

To join...or not to join?

With all of my moaning and groaning about how SAG union people get to do everything first, I've decided that I'm not going to join up.  All my old friends and even new acquaintances have told me that they are barely working once their union cards arrive.  It seems no one wants to touch them for regular work. Most of them are embarrassed to say that they are working only once a month -as opposed to pre-union days when they were working up to 5 days a week!

Last month, I got my long-awaited third waiver.  Jubilation and ecstasy flowed all over my body -for about a week.  I had crossed into a realm that I thought would never happen: if I wanted to, I could now join the union.  And initially I was psyched up to do it.  Planning how I'd use my "showbiz bank account" for the $3200 fee... as soon as I made that much this year.  I'm only half way there as of now.

But as I kept discussing how best to go about getting regular work as a SAG extra with my friend "Vinnie the cop", ...it sounded like I'd have to succumb to play the same role over and over -that of a cop.  Cop roles are usually the most popular jobs for SAG people.  First you invest a few hundred for the uniforms (winter and summer) and then hope that you get into "the rotation" of the "casting powers that be".  And of course becoming a core participant on one of the cop shows is the ultimate goal.  You get called regularly and the union wages roll in. Sounds like a plan. A very looooooong range plan. Things are never that simple.

Only one thing wrong with it: I do not want to play the same bg-role all the time.  Part of the fun of being a non-union extra is that you get to go to different sets, see different celebrities and "play different roles" (in various period clothing).  I love period pieces. Something about them makes you feel alive as you experience different sensations! As of this writing, I've had thirty roles just this year alone.  Most of my union counterparts averaged one per month. One of them even wants to give back his union card just so he can work more.  Too bad that there isn't a SAG-AFTRA union office where, once you're a member, you can be assigned to a job at reasonable intervals (provided that you are a reliable professional who shows up on time and does the work).

And so... at this time, as strange as it may seem... I may be earning less but enjoying the variety of roles much more than the advantages of being in the forefront of the food-line or complaining to the union rep about the working conditions. Perhaps acting strange IS one of the paths to becoming an actor.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A streak of "not-used"



It's really weird when you're called to do extras work (usually very early in the morning) and you go through wardrobe, makeup and hair -sit around for eight to ten hours in holding... and never get to be used on set!? I'll never understand the concept of overbooking extras.  And not just 2 or 3, but 30 to 40 of us.

So far this year, it's been on two TV shows and on one commercial that I and many others, never got used. I'd like to rationalize it by saying that I get paid either way -but quite frankly, that doesn't quite cut it.  It's definitely more useful (and fun) to be an active part of a production -even if you have to stand around waiting for the lights to be adjusted, the film to be loaded or some part of the set needing to be repaired, or whatever.  At least you get to see how it all hangs together with the actors, directors and the crew -but the bottom line is that you want to feel useful... even in the smallest of ways (extras have been known to be called "furniture that eats"). 

Problem is that when you submit for the same show later on, the casting crew wants to know when was the last time you were on the show (because they usually can't use you again for 3 weeks -to avoid someone actually spotting a "familiar blurry extra" more than once in the background).  So then you have to explain that you were on the show but "never used".  Right after which they ask, "O.K. But were you featured?"!

So I suppose the production companies work it all out in their budget.  Cost-overruns are always justified when the end product is a success. And if it's not... well, then the show gets cancelled and tax-deductions abound. As for the extras -the check's in the mail!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A hat for Gotham


Finally got my own fedora* into a show! In past gigs it was always selected for me  from "wardrobe's" closets.
Flashback:
It was during a summer rainstorm that my wife and I were running out of a restaurant and heading across the street to our parked car. I saw it in the middle of the street.  A clump of wet material being run over by the passing cars (and trucks).  It had a brown band around it (in addition to the truck-tire marks) and I immediately recognized it as a... hat.  In fact it was a man's brown fedora with a small pin attached to the band.  I had to rescue it!  Upon close inspection I noticed that the pin read "Bailey" and the tag inside expanded on the moniker as "Bailey of Hollywood"! Oh yessss... this was meant to be MY HAT. (think: Gollum saying "My precioussss!")

Took the drenched clump home and put it in my dishwasher on top of a mixing bowl to let it have some shape when it eventually dried out from the rinse cycle.  Two weeks later, it did.  Then I kind of remembered my father's mannerisms from way back. He used to give his fedora a "karate chop" on the top and pinch the front crown a bit -then a slight twist to the brim ...and BAM! he was the sharpest looking guy in town!   I decided to "channel him" and performed the same actions.

Back to the present:
And so, when I got the call to be an extra on GOTHAM, I just knew I could work it into my wardrobe.

Epilogue:
And now it's famous!

*Reference info from Wikipedia:
The word fedora comes from the title of an 1882 play by dramatist Victorien Sardou, Fédora, written for Sarah Bernhardt.The play was first performed in the United States in 1889. Bernhardt played Princess Fédora, the heroine of the play. During the play, Bernhardt wore a center-creased, soft brimmed hat. The hat was fashionable for women and the women's rights movement adopted it as a symbol. Fedoras have become widely associated with gangsters and Prohibition, which coincided with the height of the hat's popularity in the 1920s to early 1950s. In the second half of the 1950s, it fell out of favor due to a shift towards more informal clothing styles. Indiana Jones popularized the fedora in the Indiana Jones franchise.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A flurry of jobs at the end of the year


2014 ends with a melange of bookings!

I was called for Blue Bloods twice.  Once as a relative of an officer in a promotion ceremony and weeks later as a witness.  The latter was three and a half hours of "perps" and "witnesses" not being used!? I did get to see Marisa Ramirez come out of her dressing room.  Our glances met in surprise! She gave a quick smile. Great eyes. Everyone was wrapped on a short day!


Epilogue: I got to see myself chatting with another extra in the recently aired moralistic episode of "Sins Of The Father" 


Elementary provided an interesting set: The Brooklyn Museum on a very cold day... and night!  We extras provided a "tuxedoed backdrop" for a fundraiser event during which Lucy Liu's Watson-character has some serious words with someone at the bar.  It was interesting to see all the museum's artistic displays moved to the side in order to make way for the theatrical setup.  Later that evening "some of us" (including me) were selected to walk outside in the frigid air as the principals were "dialogueing" in the lobby.  Luckily I brought my thermals and was paired with an attractive girl.  That's always a good combination for providing warmth.
Cast of "The Mysteries Of Laura"
Two days later I got my wish to be on The Mysteries Of Laura!  In fact I hit the jackpot.
My first role of the day was that of a CSU investigator where Josh Lucas, Laz Alonso and Janina Gavankar were all present to check out a burn-victim in a body bag... while I nonchalantly dusted a piece of burned out furniture in the DUMBO background.  Props provided me with a whole case of CSU equipment but I had no idea that I could disturb it's contents -and so I just used a piece of splintered wood to make believe I was scraping off "evidence!  I'm such a dummy.  Luckily my second role wasn't that complicated -I was a parent at a school party.  There must have been 50 little kids running around inside this set as Debra Messing and her "two kids" were taking selfies for the scene's holiday festivities.  BINGO!  As far as I was considered, I won the jackpot of seeing all the major characters in one gig. Big kudos to the PA in charge of the kids.  She was able to control them with her 3-2-1... QUIET technique!!!


Peter Facinelli
One more tuxedo gig for a new "politico-intrigue" series entitled Odyssey.  It was a large cast call to one of the prestigious hotels in Manhattan.  As I entered a ball-room holding area, I met a bunch of my usual "tuxedo-role friends" and then some in a not-so-tuxedo role: unshaven men dressed up like women!?  As it turned out, the scene called for a CEO-gala with a bunch of cross-dressers to entertain the big-wigs. Peter Facinelli (The Twilight Saga) was one of the principals whose role was to confront an old adversary at a dinner table.  The takes were endless with a lot of wipes.  We did get to rest during our walk-away meal! Some of the scene's benefits were the NYC's building-tops' evening scenery from the 44th floor balcony and the inevitable "you can eat the food now" frenzy of the center table's super-fancy macaroons!  What a mess we left!!! The drawbacks were having our large crowd of extras wait for the small elevators to get back down to holding, so we could wait on the long line to be signed out. Not to mention the tuxedo cleaning bills we'd have to endure! But hey... maybe that can be a tax-deduction?


A new period-piece cop show, Public Morals, was set in the late 1960's, for which Ed Burns is both star and director. The set was in Hell's Kitchen off 11th Avenue. The scene was a "stabbing"... with us extras walking by nonplussed.  I guess it was no big deal for that to happen in Hell's Kitchen back in 1967?  It was a gruesome scene as Ed directed the thug to "stab him deep...now wipe the blood in his clothes...now roll him under the truck... now hide the knife in your jacket...Great!  Let's do another!!!"  Ed was pretty cool. He knew what he wanted to achieve in the scene and was working hard to get the effect.
 
Me in "present day 1967"  ... and in real 1967
We had great wardrobes, haircuts and period picture-cars in place.  I was particularly worried about the Corvair I had to stand next to.  But as long as no one bumped it from the rear, I felt ok about it. It was yet another gig with a walk-away lunch -but I didn't mind it.  I found Gotham West Market a block away and had one of the best burritos ever!  Later in the afternoon, we were put into a comfortable holding-bus for an hour or so.  One of the women sitting across the isle started a long conversation with me regarding her personal worries.  I did my "therapist shtick" and soon found that the whole bus was quieting down.  Everyone was half-sleepingly tuning in to our dialogue.  Occasional snickering from the nearby seats would accentuate our otherwise Freudian colloquy as I segued into "what about yoga".  And as the sun went down, we wrapped.

My last gig of the season was HAPPYish.  The set was at a Tarrytown train platform where Steve Cogan (Philomena) is waiting for the train while reading a hard-copy of the Steve Jobs bio.  A comical scenario ensues as he bumps into one of the many yuppies around him holding tablets with the same reading material albeit in e-pub format.  Steve replaced P.S. Hoffman (whose untimely death was a sad tragedy). He plays a middle-aged unhappy worker whose not interested in keeping up with the modern social network technology.  We extras "played" commuters - doing walking, standing, "background acting"! There wasn't much dialogue from the principals, but since I was paired up with a long-time extra buddy whom I hadn't seen in ages... well, let's just say our bantering was way-off-track.  Lot's of funny jokes and a couple of train rides back and forth made the day go fast. And... what seems to be a bonus lately on a set: we got fed!

And now the infamous end-of-the-season "slow down" starts.  We extras will be checking for non-existent submissions on an hourly basis.  It seems that a manic-momentum is created throughout our working period that just can't be turned off easily.  Probably no bg-work until mid January!? But 2014 was a pretty good year for extras work.
I don't know what 2015 will bring, but I'm sure looking forward to it... in fact I'm going to "brush up my Shakespeare" (statue).
"Alas poor William... I knew him Horatio
-A man of infinite composite jest!"