Sunday, August 06, 2006

Going, Going, Gone Hollywood

So much for the field of education and research – all that grad school, dead-end teaching and part-time managerial stuff. Some of those close to this site know by now that the former Happy Valley College elected to go with another Director of Assessment Services with no previous ties to the college while I was toiling away in the office, leaving me to do…what?

Well, for some time now I’ve had another part-time job which is now a full-time gig with income, pension contributions, and health benefits. Friends of TAA, such as Todd, have already “outed” me.

But not that type of “outed” you’re thinking of.

See, my part-time work was working as a background actor in television and film.

A lot of aspiring actors eschew the background route – they consider it demeaning, not worthy of their talents and training, nothing more than an amorphous face in the crowd.

And a lot of these same people aren’t members of the Screen Actors Guild, and won’t be for a while with that attitude.

On the other hand, if you are serious, and responsible, strange things can happen. Almost every day player and freelancer I’ve spoken with has said, “Oh yeah, I started out doing background, it got me into the union and helped me get my first few breaks.”

And that’s what happened with me, not just the SAG card, but more than a few featured roles. And after a while I started getting the phone calls, “Stephen, you’ve been photo selected by the director,” and offers of print jobs, and the voicemail numbers of casting directors who said, “If you want to work tomorrow, just drop me a line.”

Sometime you do just do crosses in front of the camera, and then, sometimes, you get the hero shot – like wrestling Eva Longoria on Desperate Housewives last season (I was the cop who took away Gabby’s adopted baby and drove off with the birth parents). And, if you’re union, the offers start rolling in: such as working as a stand-in, or a getting a stint as a regular on a returning series (guaranteed three to four days of work per episode).

So, what’s up for the future of this site?

As a professionally trained anthropologist, I approach most social settings with an eye to social organization and cultural frames that people use to categorize and negotiate their social universe.

That’s precisely what I did when I first landed on set – to me, it’s one big research project that never ends being interesting. Most people envision “Hollywood” as the product they see on a screen or DVD, or an abstract entity pushed by PR types on the nightly celebrity news shows. To me, the minutiae of daily life on the set is what’s interesting. Take a peek at Peggy Archer's blog on being a crew member in this town for one such view.

For me, however, it’s about being that face in the crowd, and sometimes that face you see clearly on the tube.

So, from time to time I’ll provide you all with some good stories from the set, personal notions (or rants) about what makes a good/bad background actor, and decorum in general, in a classic ethnographic sense, or at least a good story.

Stay tuned….

No comments: