Friday, November 30, 2012

SAG-AFTRA can wait.

So I'm in an interesting part of my career. I'm in the fun little category of being SAG Eligible. What does that mean, you may wonder? That means I can join the all important ACTING UNION whenever I want! Oooh!

When I was a humble Kentucky high schooler, I met a guy who showed me his SAG card. I looked at that thing as though it was one of Willy Wonka's golden tickets. "This guy has made it!" I thought.


(Yes, I did think up this caption. So you know... dibs.)

Now, yes. Just about every well paying job that will get you any kind of notoriety in this town requires you to be SAG-AFTRA. So it should be a no brainer, right?

The problem comes from the fact that once you join the union, that's it. Anything labeled "non union" is off limits. To put that in perspective, every acting gig I've done this year (besides the Kia commercial) is non union. I wouldn't have been able to do any of them, for fear of getting caught and fined.

Once I join SAG-AFTRA, my opportunities for employment become largely dependent on how efficient my representation is at getting me into casting rooms. That, and my ability to beat out the thousands upon thousands of other actors clawing over each other to get a limited number of roles. Seriously, I know a lot of SAG actors who never get any work because they didn't set themselves up properly beforehand.

It's kinda like moving in with somebody after you've only been dating for a few days. Geez, slow down!

Right now I have a pretty solid comedic reel, but next to no dramatic material. Not to mention my lack of a theatrical agent/manager. So there's still plenty of work that I can do as non union member. Once I squeeze every drop of forward momentum out of being non union that I can, that's when I'll drop my 3,000 dollar entry fee (yes you read that right) and start barking with the big dogs. My goal right now is to be doing union work by the end of May.

Until then... I'll be doing more of this kinda stuff.

Student Film
Extra in Syfy zombie movie
Music video

Monday, November 26, 2012

52 Sketches in 52 Weeks: For Your Consideration...

Okay readers, honesty time. Gonna tell you a little story.

It's 11pm on a Friday night, and we have no ideas for the next day's sketch that could conceivably be done in one evening. To make things worse, Matt was still working, so he was unavailable.

So I said "Hey, let's just destroy the apartment and film you throwing bread at the window."

Zach said "Okay."

And that's what happened. 

That being said, considering we probably did the whole thing in less than thirty minutes, I was very pleasantly surprised at how funny the end product actually turned out. There's a pretty cool Samuel Beckett kind of rhythm to it, especially the way he keeps forgetting to flip the knife. Reminds me of the first five to ten minutes of Endgame.

Funny how there've been a decent amount of people who didn't "get" the punchline, as if there was something to get. I guess it takes a certain kind of person to be comfortable with that anarchic kind of comedy.

And yes, we did clean the window afterwards.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

52 Sketches in 52 Weeks: Vegan Food

You know that you probably have the wrong kind of friends when you send them a script involving them eating poop and they respond with "This is awesome! I can't wait to do this!"

But that's the kind of trooper our friend Evan Nischan is. Evan eagerly brought his Meisner mastery to our humble little script, not to mention his apartment as a location. He also gets the honor of being the first guest star to appear in two atx episodes. (His other appearance can be found here.) Congrats, Evan! You should feel... proud?

Special thanks to this kid for an easy fake urine recipe. (Yes, all the food was fake, sickos.) It was strangely difficult to find a feces recipe though. Seriously, never type "Edible Poop" into Google Search. Zach and I pretty much just kinda had to wing it. It took us a good couple of hours to get those two little turds figured out.

And no, I have no idea if the ingredients were vegan or not.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Making a Reel: Uploaded and ready to go!

When we last left our hero, he was engaging in a healthy round of Facepalm after futilely smashing his head against the horrors of assembling reel footage, like scissors trying to beat rock. Nothing was going his way, and it seemed all was lost.


There it is! I can't believe it's finally done! Just when I was about to give up on a pretty important chunk of the reel, a professional editor friend of mine said "Uh. I can convert those files for you." AND IT WAS SO!

Special thanks to David Haverty for getting me the 1000 Ways to Die footage. And an honorable mention goes to my Dad for having his heart in the right place by videotaping the TV screen of my Operation Repo footage and snail mailing me the CD.

Ultimately, I decided that my Repo footage really didn't showcase me in any especially helpful way, so I figured I'd ditch it. A good reel should DEFINE YOU as an actor. My reel showcases me as a mostly comedic actor with a unique physical build capable of playing some very diverse roles. Some would ask why not throw in a dramatic scene or two? Well, because since I've been in LA, I've never been cast in a drama. Not once.

This tells me that, based on their first impressions, casting directors think I should be funny. I can cry about this or I can embrace it and show them that by heck, I am pretty funny! This is what potential agents will be expecting of me as well, I'm thinking. Besides, money from comedies is just as spendable as the boo-hooey stuff.

That being said, I would like to showcase the more grounded side of my skill-set soon. There are a lot of places in LA where you can pay professionals to shoot specific content for your reel, and I suspect in the nearish future I may pay some friends at ProduceYourReel a visit....

But for now, I'm going to see how far this one takes me.

Some quick demo reel tips that I've picked up this last month or so:

-Always put your name first so the directors actually know whose reel they're watching, and make sure CONTACT INFO is clearly displayed at the end. You could maybe put some contact info with your name in the beginning too, but I felt like that might be overkill for mine.

-The SHORTER THE BETTER. If you're a nobody (like me!) then don't you dare go longer than two minutes. If you can do it in one, so much the better. Don't waste time making sure viewers understand every little thing of what's going on in the scene. They aren't watching a movie, they're watching you. Once the character, emotion and arc of the scene is established, MOVE ON!

-Simple, simple, simple! Don't waste people's time with scrolling graphics or clever transitions. Casting directors don't care about your fancy editing skills.

-Also... and I know this seems obvious, but make sure any given clip actually has you doing something interesting. If it's a boring scene or crappy writing, even if you're good in it, you're probably better off not putting it in there. Unless it's a really recognizable show. Which brings me to...

-Put your biggest accomplishments up there first, then scroll back in order of importance. You have about ten seconds to capture a casting director's attention, and "Hey! I know this show!" just about always helps in that regard.

Anyway, hopefully that was informative to you folks. I'll keep you posted as I submit this bad boy to various agents and managers all over town. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 12, 2012

52 Sketches in 52 Weeks: Double Date

Inspired by this scene from Louie. I love the quiet tension in just having one static shot focusing on an uncomfortable situation. Makes you feel like you're trapped there. Obviously owes a little bit to Waiting for Godot as well.

Had kind of a tough time getting the hang of this, acting-wise. Obviously, we had to shoot the whole thing from start to finish without stopping. Can't cut away or do any editing trickery to make me look better, it hinges on the acting 100%. (Kinda like what Aqueela had to go through in Audition.) 

But I'm by no means new to that kind of "endurance acting." My whole background's in theater (in a show right now actually), so I knew the drill. What was challenging to me was the absolute stillness that the role demanded. (The amazing Erin Holt had it mastered on the first take, of course. Show off.) I fidgeted and smacked my lips. Plowed through my lines a little too quickly. I had trouble trusting the notion that even when nothing's moving or speaking, compelling things are still happening: jokes are being told and decisions are being made. As I talked about in another blog post, simplicity is often the best policy.

It's a lesson that I obviously already understood as a writer (I wrote the scene, after all) but as an actor I guess it unnerved me. As I sat there in between the lines, I could practically hear David Mamet screaming "Pacing! Pacing! Don't be so pretentious! Go faster!" See, early in my career, teachers ground into my head not to take long, self-indulgent pauses onstage. And I think those teachers were absolutely right... But sometimes you just have to hold still and be quiet.

Zach was all too happy to beat these hang-ups out of me. "Every time you smack your lips, it makes me want to blow my brains out." I think I'm gonna log that away as "favorite direction I've ever gotten." He sure did get the job done though. I'm really happy with the end product.

We've already gotten a lot of positive feedback on this one. Guess you folks like to see me getting shot down by beautiful women.

Not that such a thing has or ever will happen in real life, of course.

Friday, November 9, 2012

52 Sketches in 52 Weeks: Dakaboobie

Got another Matt offering for you this week! Kind of a comedic version of Bartleby, the Scrivener. 

Seriously, try to say the word "Dakaboobie" without smiling. You can't do it.

I've noticed in sketches especially how just one joke or idea is usually enough to carry the whole piece. Simplicity has power.

My little cameo was a lot of fun. Kinda hate that you can see our apartment intercom though.

We totally stole that tree from the front of our apartment building, in the name of looking like a slightly different location. Then we put it back. I like to imagine that the landlord saw the security footage of that and shook his head in complete confusion.

Shot this the same night that we did Stop the Anti-Bullying Campaign. It was very late, so I fell asleep through a big chunk of the shoot.

That's why this post is a little scatterbrained.

I'm wearing red pants.

Friday, November 2, 2012

I'm in a play and it's a blast! How King Kong hooked me up with some awesome LA artists.

For whatever bizarre reason, I have yet to get around to posting on my acting blog that I have, in fact, been acting this last month or so.

Kong: A Goddamn Thirty Foot Gorilla is playing at the SkyPilot Theater until Nov. 25th. (8pm on Sat. 7pm on Sun.)

Upon arriving back in Los Angeles from Kentucky, I got to experience the smug satisfaction of having a director ask me to be in his play without having to audition.  And not just any director! This is none other than Jaime Robledo, a director I know through Sacred Fools whose imaginative staging and physical comedy has lately started to attract a lot of attention in the Los Angeles theatrical community. His work on the Buster Keaton show Stoneface (starring French Stewart) extended several times and sold out almost every night.

Long story short, I quickly found myself acting as an ensemble member in the World Premiere of Kong: A Goddamn Thirty Foot Gorilla at SkyPilot Theater. A teaser of the show can be viewed here.

The show itself (written by Adam Hahn) is a genre-bending cocktail of wacky physical humor, intellectual analysis, satire, and outright recreation of iconic scenes from the classic King Kong. Telling such an epic story is a huge undertaking for a tiny theater based in North Hollywood, and these challenges have spawned a show that has creativity bursting out of every scene. But don't take my word for it, check out our 100% Bitterlemons rating.

Playing an ensemble member has proven to be a fun challenge. I play everything from a simpleton sailor to an enraged New Yorker to a flying prehistoric moth. That means, of course, that I get to find different physicality and dialects for each and every character. Jaime's pretty much given me free reign to inject whatever personality I'd like into all of them, and the rehearsal process functioned as a creative sandbox to play around with how I wanted the characters to fit into the world of the play. It's been a fun ride.

We've basically taken source material that is impossible to adapt for the stage... and then adapted it for the stage. It's been great to work with people who say "How?" instead of "Can't." There's a boldness to the mentality of everyone involved with this project that I associate with real artists, and this young whippersnapper sure has learned a lot from all of them. Can't wait for tomorrow so I can do it all over again.

Come check us out!