Thursday, March 29, 2007

Into the night

Since my last post, I've worked every day, save one, which I used to catch up on some long overdue sleep. It's that time of the year when everything is crazy, like the following:

Showed up on the set of a pilot last week with explicit instructions from the casting director on the lines, "Our guy cast as the police photographer should be in a suit, definitely in a suit." Trouble is, I can't remember seeing any photographer in a suit, save for an awards show. So I packed some casual stuff. Sure enough, I get to the wardrobe trailer and the first words out of her mouth are, "Don't you have anything less formal than that?"

It's all about going with the flow. The same thing happened yesterday on a location shoot (really close to my apartment, for once). I showed up early, but the BG coordinator was down on his count for a wedding shoot. He signed me in early, prior to my call time, and had me wait for wardrobe to see if any of my options would be acceptable for a role change.

So I waited, and waited, and waited some more. Wardrobe was dealing with a problem on set, several miles away, and finally got back to the dozen of us waiting in the sun by the trailer a full two hours after our call time. By that time, of course, they didn't want us in formal stuff, and switched us out into uniforms - something not mentioned on the tape with our agency.

Again, you just have to go with the flow, otherwise you will burn out gray cells working in this business.

[Note: Those of you who have worked BG will know that CD's often state that "non-union must bring two clothing options, while union brings one." According to the contract, SAG BG must be paid bumps if requested to bring additional changes to set (or luggage, or props), even if those changes are never used. That's why you hear that phrase used all the time. But, given experiences like those detailed above, we still bring some options with us. ]

So, I'm off to a night shoot tonight, with a high probability of being booked on another gig while on set for tomorrow, possibly early. How do you deal with a two, or three-hour turn around? Pack more clothes, keep other stuff in the trunk of your car, and be prepared to leave one set and drive to another, shave and change quickly, and go to work. Thankfully, this doesn't happen too often, but it is one of the experiences full time BG must endure from time to time. Details to come.

Friday, March 23, 2007

It's that time of the year

No, not that time of the year. But it feels like a holiday.

Pilot season is in full swing, and that means long days, full weeks, and fat paychecks. All you have to give up is sleep, and a piece of your life.

I remember having a conversation with another BG'er last year at this time. She said, "I don't know what day of the week it is, but I know my category and call time for tomorrow, and the location of crew parking."

It's also the time of the year when casting agencies call you in the wee hours of the morning:

"How fast can you make it to Long Beach?"

"Uh, what time is it?" Peering into the predawn blackness.

"About an hour before call time, if you can make it."

But we all do it since pilot season is to actors what harvest season is to farmers, the opportunity to actually earn some cash.

Now, I'm trying to keep up on the blogging, but my formerly-friendly neighbors are tweaking down their wifi networks, reducing me to post from a local laundromat, complete with screaming kids, loud Spanish-language TV, and machines buzzing all around.

It's not too conducive to writing, but I'll try.

Last week was a good one for me on the boob tube, I was featured prominently on two shows: One, a fast-paced action drama (something to do with a stabbing); and the other a long-time skit comedy show that has finally wrapped for good. Got a lot of emails and calls from family and friends congratulating me. But, reality set in when I told my dad about it.

"Nah. I looked for you and didn't see anything."

Oh well. That's the fleeting nature of the business. In the mean time I'm still collecting checks, getting health care, and making pension payments.

And, of course, I'm off to a night shoot later today on the other side of town.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Out of the doldrums

OK, so I'm a bad blogger... a really bad blogger. But part of the reason for this corner of cyberspace is to show you all some of aspects of being a professional background actor in Hollywood. That, of course, requires work, and when there is no work, there's just not much to report.

January was great. Coming out of hiatus a bunch of us were working full weeks, looking forward the traditional February-to-early-May pilot season. But then February 1st came, and the work just...didn't...appear.

In fact, it was downright lousy. Industry vets who are a year or two away from collecting their SAG pensions were griping, loudly, about how slow this past month was.

"I've never seen it this slow with two decades in the business."

You said it.

So a couple weeks went by without any gigs, then one or two here, a long wait, and another at the end of a week.

Finally, it has picked up, and taken off like a kite in a windstorm, with the same degree of finess.

Case in point. Last Friday I got the call at 5:30 am to rush down to the harbor area (about forty miles away) ASAP to replace a union backgrounder whose car broke down. After rushing through the early L.A. rush-hour mess, I got to base camp, wardrobe, makeup, hair, and was then rushed onto set sans any coffee or caffeinated product (a serious grievance in my book), let alone food, then was placed prominently in the first scene of the day. The coverage meant that I was used for all angles, while my colleagues lingered by crafty and filled their waistlines with wanton calories. And I still really needed that coffee.... Finally got a cup about 3 1/2 hours into the day.

For the past couple weeks, this has been typical, apart from some plush jobs. Did two full days on a feature near my city - an easy commute and was never used once: A "no-hitter!"

So, for the literally dozens of you who visit TAAGH, I'll try my best to keep up with the posts. Also, since this *is* pilot season, any of you who want to try the industry, now is a great time. And, more importantly, those of you trying to go union, this is a very important time. Keep tuning in, and I'll leave you with my thoughts on what it takes to go union, which I think is much easier to do in the next few months than at any other time of the year.

That should whet your whistles.