Archive for category Acting

The Stevens Sisters

When you are a writer, there is nothing quite like having an actor bring your stories to life.

This weekend, we went to the theatre to see our play, “The Stevens Sisters” performed.

The organizations that presented the play festival are the Town & Gown Theatre and Troupe d’Jour in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The proceeds from the festival went to benefit a local charity called Kickin’ Childhood Hunger.

Our play was directed by Sharyl Pickens, and it was acted by Shelli Aliff and Sharyl Pickens.

This was the finest acting that I have seen on one of our plays thus far. It’s wonderful to see how talented actors can bring words to life. Before this, the play only existed as black ink on white pages.

Then you see it live and see it embodied. I don’t care how many times you see your work performed…this does not get old.

Theatre people are fun people! It’s fun to get to be around people who “do what we do”. For a couple of hours this weekend, we saw stories come to life in front of our eyes. The outside world drops away. You forget your troubles. You forget your cares.

“The Stevens Sisters” is by Amanda Ball and Karen Ball. This was the first time that Karen has had the opportunity to see one of our works performed live.

As a matter of fact, it was the first time she has been asked for an autograph!

 

Actor Shelli Aliff, Playwright Amanda Ball, Playwright Karen Ball, Actor/director Sharyl Pickens.

Long live the theatre!

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No vocal booth? Um…no problem

One of our voice over artists has attempted to record the voice over (VO) on his own – with his existing equipment. The quality of his performance was great! But the quality of the audio was lacking.

The solution is to record him with actual audio editing software, so that I could engineer the session, and try to record the best original source material at a clean audio.

We met at a hotel this week, and I had all my equipment with me. (It felt like I had more electronics in the car – than I had left at home! Ha)

Now…the problems: an unknown environment. This hotel has a heating/air conditioning system that has a continuous fan. You can turn the actual air conditioner off, but you still have a background noise. Who knows what kind of interference you might get from any electrical appliances?

And you have walls and objects that are going to bounce sound.

At first I set up a location for him to sit on a chair and talk into pillows. Nope. That ain’t gonna work.

There was a recessed area next to the cabinet where the television sat. I got a hotel blanket and we created a makeshift vocal booth. We positioned a chair very close to the blanket, so that he was facing a blanket and *hopefully* that is going to absorb sound bounce/block the fan of the air conditioner.

Make shift vocal booth

Then it took a whole lot of monkeying with the audio software to find the best settings. That just takes time. There is no way around it. Do an audio test. Adjust. Test again. Adjust.

Finally we arrive at  what…(I hope) is a good setting. Again, with audio engineering, there is no “one best way”. You make your best guestimate, and you dive in.

Voice over artist Tommy Ball.

When you engineer a session like this…it takes all your concentration. It takes all your focus. So rather than me running the alternate lines, we had a volunteer who, ever so kindly, offered to help (ie–she said she was leaving the hotel room for us to work and I am going…NOOOOO! You have to stay and read lines!)

Karen Ball feeds lines during the recording.

Her lines will not be used in the final recording. But it is critical to have someone help out in this way…to give your voice over artist something to play off of. You get a rhythm in your dialog, and having those lines spoken aloud really helps.

Bless him…Tommy Ball read take after take after take after take.

He put so much effort into this: first of all–being willing to take the gig in the first place. Then you learn your lines. Then you craft a ‘performance’ of how to sell your character. Then, you attempt to record your work in your own home on your own equipment. Whew!

Mind you – the other voice actor recorded his lines in my studio some weeks back. It’s not like the two voice actors were in the same room – working at the same time, and playing off of each other’s character.

No, it is that much harder – to work solo, to have no idea what the other actor is doing, and still “pull off” the performance.

What is the measure of a good performance?

Well, at our previous session – with different actors, we were outdoors, and the person who is on cam and on mike was so amazing. I glanced behind me, and one man had his hand over his mouth and his eyes were bulging out, trying to stifle laughter while we were recording.

This time?? Tommy “sold” that character soooo well, I had to clap my hand over my mouth to hold back the laughter, and hope like heck that I hadn’t made any noise that would ruin the take!

We have had so many volunteers, giving freely of their time and effort and energy – to help a movie get made.

But things are progressing.

“Head ’em up…move ’em out!”

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Suffering…

Suffering…

The original title of this blog was going to be:
Suffering…for your art!

From time to time, as the opportunity arises…I take on an acting job.

For a few weeks, we have been getting casting notices for a major project that is being filmed in our area. It sounds like it’s a pretty Big Deal. So, I tell my partner “It’d be nice to apply for this (and possibly get hired) and get it at the ground floor (meaning…maybe they’ll use us again.)”

I apply. I get hired. Wow. That is something.

I know the day I will be working, and the city in which I’ll be working. Now, our state is geographically large. And so if you want to be an actor in this state, you make up your mind, “I’ll go where the work is.” That means you better make up your mind, real quick, that you’re gonna have to get in your car, and drive to these gigs. This particular gig was close to my home. Wow. Miracles! For once, I’m not driving Far Away to work.

The day before the gig, someone is trying to get ahold of me. Would I be available to work at 6 am, in another location (of course–this one is much further away!)?

So, I say I’ll do it. That means I’ll have to get up at 3am, in order to roll out to get there. Dressed. Hair and makeup ready. But I am game. I’ll treat this whole thing as a lark. An adventure.

Yeah. It’s early. This’ll be my third day on about 7 collective hours of sleep. But I am an actor. I am in showbusiness. I want to be a part of whatever is going on. So…it’s an adventure. I’ll leave in the middle of the night, and drive to the middle of nowhere, and be an actor for the day.

My call time is 6. I get there at 5am. Sun not even up yet. I kill time outside the set, but go in at 5:30. It’s a field in the middle of nowhere. I park my car. Other people are rolling in. I walk up this lonnnnnggggg driveway and try to find out where I check in.

They direct me to the catering tent…where there is a spread unlike anything I have ever had on acting gigs before: real, amazing food! Carved fresh fruit. Omelet station. Every juice imaginable. Choices. So at 5:30 am, for all this to be ready, what time did catering have to get there and be prepared?

I am used to sets where the extras are kept in a separate area and fed much “lesser” meals than they feed the crew. So for us to be welcome to such food is amazing.

When you are on these gigs, there is a certain way you behave. You do not engage people in conversation. We are all there to work, and ‘bothering’ someone is a disruption. As an extra, you go where you are told. You do what you are told. Either obey instantly…or do not even take the gig.

On this set, as I’m walking up this long driveway, the first person I see greets me and says hello. I say hello back. Another one greets me, then another.

Wow! That does not happen!

This set has the most equipment trucks of any I have ever worked. I’m gonna say probably 20 to 25 trailers and equipment trucks are there.

So, I still don’t know what the project is or what’s going on. They are not allowed to tell us any details. Finally, and not from any official channels, someone tells us what the project is.

And it is a doozy! Much more than I could have imagined. And YES…I want to be in on this, be a part of such a huge thing.

One actor had guested on the current most popular TV show a few weeks ago. One actor is on a show that is on RIGHT NOW. I am watching it on Netflix, right now…and HE IS the reason I am watching this particular show.

This is cool. Trained chefs. Amazing food. Actors that I admire tremendously. Of course, I can be entertained just watching the equipment go by. The setups. The choices they make.

On this scene they are filming cars on a highway, and they have two classic cars there to work with. That is fun!

But they have technical issues. We do not get to work the scene. I understand that. Things happen. But we are in this tent, with access to food, water, bathrooms, and they have ductwork with air conditioning piped in. So, that is pleasant and reasonable.

We got there at six. They have lunch ready before noon. Crew meal time was 1:00, but they let us eat the food that the crew ate – prepared by chefs, all amazing and wonderful and fresh food!

The extras still have not been to set, but at least we have shelter, food, water, provisions and bathrooms.

And after lunch, they start taking it all away. At 1:30, someone came over and said something about “You’ll do xyz paperwork to check out when you leave.”

And that was the last any of the extras heard. For hours. Catering packed up and took the chairs away. We had no shelter, and no access to chairs, baking in that Oklahoma summer sun for hours. No access to food or water. Just there. We all ended up lining up next to a fence, that had some shade.

From 6 to 2, I was having a good day – glad to be a part of something interesting.

From 2pm on….it ceased to be fun.
No shelter. No place to sit. No access to food. No provisions for water. No information.

IT WAS MISERABLE!

I finally went wandering and asked for a granola bar and said that we were baking out there.

Finally about 5:30 I texted the casting assistant (who had hired me, and was not on site), and explained all that and asked what to do. She said that that was unacceptable, and she was going to call them. At about the same time, one of the extras stopped a PA who came over with a handful of water bottles. I said “What about supper and chairs?”

Well, they brought us sandwiches, but still, we are stuck there, with no provisions.

Some of the teamsters had pulled 2 chairs out of a van, and I mean the van seats, and I had a lawnchair in my trunk, which I went to get. But that is not enough for everybody.

In 94* Oklahoma heat, you do not want to get dehydrated. So, up till 2, I kept drinking water and I had a Sprite, just to stay hydrated. So, that means you need to go to the bathroom, A LOT.

Then, they loaded up the bathroom trailer, and took it away.

Stuck: no shelter, most people standing, we had a sandwich, after several hours without – we now have access to water, and no bathroom.

And the extras still haven’t been to set to work.

Later, the PA came over to us, after being made aware of our plight, got some info, and said we can’t leave, because they might still use us in the shot. By now, we are all “over it”.

I don’t want to wait until I am in trouble, so after 7pm, I asked, “What do we do about a bathroom?” I mean, I can get in my car and drive 10 miles to the nearest town, but that means, going down the long driveway and getting on the highway – where they have traffic blocked for filming, and disrupting all that.

Oh…they have a bathroom trailer down at the highway, where they are filming.

It’s too far to walk. I say I can drive my car down there, but I wonder if that disrupts filming?  They get a runner to take us there in a van.

As I am coming out of the women’s room, I step down onto the ground, and the star is there. Waiting.

He was the nicest gentleman you’d ever want to meet. They tried to get him to go in line ahead of people and he would not do it. I said, “But you’re working, you go on ahead.”

So, I broke that rule, which is…”don’t bother the stars when they are working.”

The van takes us back to our fence where are standing.

By now, and it is starting to get dark, they come in from the highway. They haven’t used us, and the equipment guys are packing up. We aren’t going to act that day.

From 6am (actually 5am-since I am early) to 2pm, I was fine. After 2pm, it was NOT FUN ANYMORE.

Still, we stand around, when the equipment is being trucked out and we are obviously not going to be used anymore. I go ask, “what do we need to do to check out and leave?”

“You can’t leave yet, not until we get permission.”

The person who had filled out our paperwork got his box and left. Still we are stuck there, no shelter, no provisions, no chairs, no bathroom.

They finally say, “Such and such person will check you out and it’s probably going to be another 25 minutes.”

No shelter. No chairs. No food. No provisions. No bathrooms.

I have HAD ENOUGH!!!!!!

I gather my things, and I left. 8pm. Most of the crew is gone. We were not going to be used in the scene. Still they treat us like chattel without providing the basic necessities of life…..

and I walk.

I got my things, put them in my car, and left.

I wanted to be a part of this experience. But not like that.

I know that things happen. They had major technical difficulties. They were supposed to have this shot and be done by early afternoon. Things happen – beyond their control. I understand that.

They hired extras to play a role and play a part, and we didn’t get to do that. I am okay with that. Up till 2pm, when we still had provisions, I was okay with it. I was there to work, and if I didn’t get to, I am disappointed, but you roll with it.

After 2pm, to be stuck there, without basic human needs being met…That is not acceptable.

It was a miserable day – for everyone. I cannot imagine the brutality of working a crew job. Hours upon hours upon hours with a hugely physical job, in the brutal heat. It didn’t seem to bother any of them to not have a bathroom, but perhaps they had access to a trailer with a bathroom. They knew where craft services was, and could go get water, but no one had made that provision to us.

I soooo felt for the stars. In fact, I was worried about them, out in that relentless heat. Dehydration is not something you want to mess with. Sunstroke. Heatstroke.

I kept texting my partner throughout the day, and it went from “Wish you were here!” to “this is horrible…I’m glad you are not here.”

But later, on the phone, after I had left, I said, “We will never treat people like this! Not on our set!!!!”

What is the takeaway here? I didn’t check out on their paperwork. Do I get paid? I have no idea? Do I only get the base rate they offered, or since we had sooo much overtime, do they honor it?

Have I created a ‘black mark’ on my record with the casting office? I don’t know.

In the Oklahoma film industry, and I have a whole lot of experience there, this is not the norm. Yes, there will be bad days. There will be delays. I understand that.

But in the film industry in general – why are these working conditions tolerated? The crew acted like this was not unusual. I heard, more than once, “In New York, this is normal…”

It is normal to force people to work for hours on end, without basic human provisions?

What kind of industry is this? In every other industry, there are guides and limitations to what you can do to people? I mean…even truck drivers have limitations on the hours they can work at their jobs.

Why is the film industry the only industry lobbying to make people work MORE hours? Without having access to basic provisions like water and bathrooms.

Was it last year, or the year before, when the crew member on the Longmire set worked something like 20 hours, got in a vehicle, fell asleep at the wheel and died in a car wreck?

At that time, there was a lobbying effort called something like 12 and 12. 12 hours on. 12 hours off.

One crew member told me she had worked (I think not on this gig, but a previous one) 20 hours a day, been given 5 hours to sleep and get up and work another 20.

We have labor laws in this country. That is an unsafe working environment, under any circumstances.

It doesn’t take but just a little effort to treat people right.

What is the takeaway here?

All I know is….after getting up at 2:45 am (on less than 4 hours sleep), and driving a whole lotta miles to get to a gig, that I arrived at before dawn….then sat there, on the clock for 14 hours – without working, and I still have a very long drive ahead of me (by then…one of the other extras came by and saw me, and asked “Are you okay?” and I answered…I am worried about being safe enough to drive home.) … when I have baked in the sun all afternoon and gotten dehydrated…

By now – I am worried enough about my health to behave in an unprofessional manner. Yes, I walked out without permission. But if I am concerned enough to worry about my safety to even get home…is it worth it?

Both my mom and my business partner said, “LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU ARE HOME SAFE!”

Is it worth it?

I have had one other acting gig where it was this brutal. And on that one, we were indoors, had chairs, and had water – all day.

14 hours out there. 8 good hours. Then it went downhill. No basic provisions for the rest.

No it’s not worth it. I do not want to work for these people again.

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Yes, That’s Covered

My acting partner, Don Krejsek got cast in a national commercial for Bushnell.

The ad is called “Yes, That’s Covered”.

He is at .06.

We have done a lot of work, together, for our own projects and whatnot. But for someone else to cast him out of dozens of applicants… Then to get hired for the shoot… Then to actually get edited IN the final project: That is Super Cool!

Way To Go!!!

 

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Being edited IN…

As a working actor, you get these gigs, and you show up and do your job, but you have no control. Lots and lots and lots of times, you are edited out of the final cut. That’s _fine_. I enjoy acting so much, and the experience of being on set is amazing.

So, being edited ‘out’ is to be expected.

But…what happens when you are edited ‘IN’?

In late 2014 – I believe it was – I worked, as an extra, a movie called “Monday at 11:01am“. It is a psychological thriller by Charles Agron Productions.  The movie’s website.

It was super hot that day and, I got placed, in the direct sunlight, for hours. My prop was a fake newspaper, so in between takes, I’d hold it up to shade the sun from my head. I didn’t pass out, but one extra almost did.

So, guess what? The movie trailer gets released and I  _got edited IN_  the movie trailer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2FFOPxuiCm4

At .20 seconds, the car pulls a U-turn. I am sitting at an outdoor table, at a sidewalk cafe, in a light blue shirt.  From the distance, and at youtube parameters, you can’t see that it’s me. But still, how cool it is to be edited IN.

This is sooo cool. I love my job!

Monday at 11:01AM – facebook page

Monday at 11:01AM – Twitter feed

 

This is my original blog post about the gig.

No release date has been posted yet, but when it is, I’ll post it here.

Get your popcorn ready! See ya at the movies!

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Star Quality

My movie/music partner, Don, is someone that I call my ‘creative soulmate’. Sometimes you just find someone that you are in sync with. And when it comes to creativity, he and I are on the same page.

He is many things, but one of them is a real outdoorsman. When we get acting gig audition notices, which call for outdoorsmen types, we almost always submit. But not a lot has happened on that front – until now.

Last Wednesday, we got a casting call, and I think he’d be perfect for it. I email it to him, middle of the night. About 7am, he emails me that he wants to submit. I get the email about 9am. But the day is so busy, we can’t even get together for me to take the submission photos.

So, he gets some photos together, emails them to me. I edit them and we start the submission. When we are both in from our respective day jobs, we talk on the phone, and put together the “sales pitch” information that we are sending with the casting call. I keep both of our resumes updated, etc, so at least that is prepared and ready.

Wednesday at 7:50pm, we submit for this gig. The deadline is noon Thursday, so that’s running it pretty close.

All Thursday, we check messages. Nada.

Friday morning, I wake up in the middle of the night. I almost didn’t check, but I woke up enough to go check the computer. Sure enough, there was an email. It was sent at 12:53am. He had an audition at 12:54 pm – that day in Oklahoma City.

That’s 12 hours notice.

I texted and emailed him, at 4:20am, but usually his phone is on his desk. I make up my mind, if I don’t hear back, I’ll call by 7am.

So, I call at 7 and wake him up. By then we’re down to 6 hours of notice.

He says he will go to this last minute audition.

Now, if he wants to take off by himself or meet up with his friends, after, then that’s fine. But sometimes, we go off and have a fun day together, so if he wants me to go along, then I’ll tag along.

Not only did he want me to go, he needed a vehicle and could I drive?

So, with NO notice, he gets his stuff together for the audition, and I pick him up a little after 8. We head to Oklahoma City.

When we get there, we have about a 50 minute wait. We sit in the parking lot and listen to some Sinatra. We see various men, in their outdoorsman gear, go into the office. These men crawl out of city cars. Probably 80% of them have never been hunting in their lives. That’s not to say that there aren’t city men who can act like outdoorsmen. Some people are true actors and can portray anything.

But Don is the Real Deal. A real Outdoorsman. And a true actor.

None of these men that walked in had that indefinable thing. And when it’s time for Don’s audition, he gets out of that car and struts into that building like he owns the place.

What is the difference between him and everyone else we saw?:

Star Quality.

He’s got it.

In spades.

He was in the office about 20 minutes. He comes out, sits in the car, and tells me everything that happened. It was a line that you say, but you get cut off. Then there were reaction shots.

Well, Don is the king of reaction shots.

I said, “It sounds like you nailed it.”

He was dubious. He said, “I’d like to think I did, but maybe I didn’t.”

So, he was wound up. We had talked all the drive down about where to have lunch, but no one had decided. We just drove down the street and found an upscale pub, and went in and had lunch.

After that, we headed home. About 2/3 of the way there, his phone beeped, and he had LANDED THE GIG!!!

Woo hoo!!!

Star Quality, baby! You can’t beat it.

(Of course, being a true actor with talent is a wonderful skill to have in your toolbelt.)

DSCF0583 med ir

Don

They shot the gig this week.

Stay tuned…

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Updates on “Monday at 11:01AM”

Monday at 11:01AM” will release in the first quarter of 2016.

This is a movie that I worked as an extra last fall. It’s a thriller, and a lot of buzz seems to be building.

Article from Deadline

The movie’s twitter page

The movie’s Facebook page

The movie’s IMDB page

 

See ya at the movies!!!

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