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Archive for January, 2009

Commercial Casting Method For Film Casting?

Had the weirdest day yesterday. Had to go to a freelance gig in the morning and then a film audition in the afternoon. Cranky had to get up at 7am. Cranky is used to sleeping ‘til 8. Oh oh.

Actually left on time. But there was a set back when the line at Starbucks in Penn Station was out the door and into the station. Of course, I stood on it anyway, because even though they serve coffee at the freelance place, Cranky cannot drink just any coffee. What they serve my Italian mother used to call “dishwater.”

So ran down 8th Avenue with a Venti Starbucks that kept splashing out of the lid and kept trying to pass the man in front of me who was walking in a serpentine pattern who had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, while texting on his phone and walking at the same time. A poster boy for New York City. “Why do I have to share the sidewalk with this guy? Pick a lane Dude.” I thought.

Finally pass him and get there on time. Was delighted when I arrived to receive multiple compliments on my new haircut. Cranky mood improves considerably. This is big for me. You have to understand, that along with the search for happiness, stability, and the meaning of life, the life long quest for the perfect hairdo has been foremost on the life to do list. Something I thought I might never achieve. The curse of having two heads of Irish/Italian hair on one scalp. Way way too much hair that most haridressers are not equipped to deal with. Cranky has been to celebrity hairdressers even. Didn’t help. There have been times when people asked me what I’ve been doing lately and I’ve answered with, “Growing out my last bad haircut.”
When I go to lunch at a Greek diner with a friend and co-worker after freelance workshop, the minute we sit down, a platinum blond lesbian who is on her way out bends over and whispers in my ear in a deep husky voice, “I have to tell you, you’re a very attractive woman.” Then five minutes later, a lone man on his way out passes by our table and says, “ I’ve been staring at you. You have the most amazing eyes.” He is apparently gay also, which gives the compliment even more clout in my book. We are in Chelsea after all. Now I’m thinking of sending my hairdresser a bonus check. When we get the check I stand up and yell in a Brooklyn accent (for effect), “EXCUSE ME! BEFORE I LEAVE DOES ANYBODY ELSE WANNA GIVE ME A COMPLIMENT?” Only kidding. Only kidding. It was a fluke. And the universe sent it before I went to the audition so I wouldn’t like jump in the Hudson when it was over.

I have to walk to the meatpacking district in my high heel boots, which are not cobblestone friendly. I find the place, and it is a super trendy modern frenetic commercial casting house. Three irritated people are manning the front desk. They are throwing actors against a wall and snapping pictures, which are simultaneously spewing out of a printer. Everyone in the Meatpacking District thinks they are better than everyone else in Manhattan.

This place has a totally different vibe from the quiet serious film auditions I usually go to. They have written the sides on a board with magic marker. You have to use those and not hold the script. Huh?

The Polaroids and the board sides are what they do in commercial auditions when you have three idiotic lines.

I go in there, and they have me stand like a mannequin and read with another actress. They want us to cheat out and not face each other. Everything feels wrong wrong wrong. I’m used to a reader, a chair, and a script in my hand. I let it all throw me, and I pretty much suck.

To make matters worse, I have kinda learned the lines, and the actress I’m reading with said she hasn’t even had a chance to read it, so she improvises all over the place and I am trying to follow her and say lines from the script which in retrospect was stupid on my part. It was BAAAAD. But you get these results from a crap set up. It is the standard to audition actors separately with a reader so they are not depending on what the other auditioner is doing or not doing. I could not do my work. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I hobble out into the cobblestone street and back to subway. When I reach home, I have to lie on the couch and watch “Wife Swap” reruns to recover.

Certainly a come down after the Greek diner, huh?

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The Hatwoman Finale

I was thinking maybe I was too hard on the Hatwoman. Maybe she wasn’t so bad. Why did I have this reaction? I didn’t understand, until it was time to do the work.

In one scene we are on the phone together. We really didn’t have to work together at all since we were filmed in different locations. I suggested that we be on the phone for each other when we do our scenes, so we wouldn’t have to ACT like we were on the phone with another person and could be really listening to a human and not dead air.

When it comes time to film her part of the scene I am still in Florida. I am running around cleaning our friend’s house that we have been staying in before we leave for the airport. Cranky gets crazy when she has to make a plane.

My cell phone rings and it is the director from New York. They are ready to film Hatwoman’s part of the scene. I stop what I am doing and go sit on the patio. Hatwoman gets on the phone. We say hello. Then she says, “ Ah, um. I really haven’t had time to focus on these lines. If I forget or anything, would you read them to me?” “Ah, yeah,” I say.

So they yell “ACTION!” in New York and we begin. I have to read all her lines to her over the fucking phone. How do you go to a film set and NOT KNOW YOUR LINES? Huh?

The director says the sound is picking up me saying her lines before she says them. Not good. I hear a scared, “Oh,” from Hatwoman. And then silence. I tell her to just take a long pause before speaking, so they can edit me out saying her lines to her. So this is how we get through it.

When it comes time to do my half of the call she isn’t available, and I have the director out in my stairwell on his cell phone talking to me. Which was fine.

So her whole act bothered me because I knew she was all about being late and big sunglasses and putting on a big show as subterfuge for not knowing a thing about what she’s actually doing. The song and dance of the clueless. You are only allowed to act like this if you once did great work, won awards, and now are famous and are on drugs.

The Myopic Topic Conversation

There are a lot of situations when actors are sitting around waiting. Occasionally, especially at auditions, actors find ways to let other actors know about all the work they’ve done short of just whipping out their resumes and reciting it. They also find ways to drop how tight they are with the director.
This takes ingenuity. It takes talent. But with a background in improvisation, it is pretty effortless to take any topic and find a thread to past projects you have done.
Here is an example of how this is done:

Actress 1
Hi, uh are there any sides?
Actress 2
Yea, on the table.
Actress 1
Oh, thanks. Are they on time?
Actress 2
Yea, BUDDY told me it would only be a few minutes.
Actress 1
BUDDY?
Actress 2
He’s the DIRECTOR. He’s a FRIEND of mine. He called me personally and < ASKED me to audition.
Actress 1
Do you have a TISSUE?
Actress 2
Sure. That’s so funny. I’m in a play RIGHT NOW and I have to cry every night and I’m crying so much that we’re going through a ton of TISSUES!
Actress 1
That’s nice. COLD out, huh?
Actress 2
Yeah. That’s so funny. This weather reminds me of the time I did CHEKHOV, it was < COLD then too.
Actress 1
Speaking of COLD, that reminds me of the time I did MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM and the air conditioner broke. We wished it was COLD then, you know?
Actress 2
Oh, how awful.
Actress 1
And to make matters worse, it was a FULL HOUSE. We sold out every night.
Actress 2
Oh, that reminds me of the time I did MISS JULIE. They lived in a HOUSE.
Actress 1
I auditioned for that role. My agent said I didn’t get it because the role is too old for my age range.
Actress 2
Gee, your agent sounds nice. That was such a nice way to put it. So you weren’t too disappointed. How sweet!

Film Magic In My Living Room

Remember the film I was cast in opposite the Hatwoman? Well, filming dates coincided with my vacation. The last day of filming being the day I’m flying back from Florida. Oy. So I quickly offered my apartment as a location. I was the only one in my scene so it didn’t matter. I’m on the phone in the scene. The director said OK. Which was awfully nice of him ‘cause he could have bagged my ass and gotten another actress.

So the day comes to go home. I travel most of the day. Sit on a packed plane with not enough air. Eat a mini bag of Fritos and a micro mini Kit Kat and a Diet Coke for dinner on the plane. There was a sandwich, but it scared me.
Take a cab home. Drop my bags. Call the director, who is parked a block away waiting for me. Run and wash my face, brush my teeth and let Visine work it’s magic. Changed into wardrobe. Did a turbo makeup job.

We started filming at ten p.m. and I’m afraid we will be at it all night. DP’s and lighting sometimes take forever. And since it is night, and they have to make it look like day, because the other half of the phone call was filmed in the afternoon.
But, I so lucked out. The DP has done massive amounts of big work on big films. So he walks in and says, “Sit there.” Then he sets up one big light that he bounces off a mirror and IT’S DAYLIGHT. Then he recruits my husband to hold a square of tin foil and periodically move it a certain way and now we have cars going by reflecting the daylight on my face. Ingenious.
I do the first take and it goes fine. So did the takes, so we got it done in an hour. And my husband did a great job manipulating tin foil square. Which I appreciate since we just got back from vacation where I am not at my best. The director, the DP and the sound guy were total dolls. Like so happy to be doing what they’re doing and all. This makes Cranky Actress happy. A little bit of film magic in my living room.

It’s funny how things in life work. One day you are rushing off a plane to shoot a scene and the next day you are waiting once more for the phone to ring.

Cranky Actress On Vacation

I’ve been on vacation in Florida. . It’s been OK. Except for when we arrived and my suitcase did not. So I ended up tromping around being a pale person in a black wool pea coat, black wool knit pants, and loser clogs, in a landscape of tan people wearing pastels and showing a lot of their tan skin. I think I looked only marginally mentally ill.
We’re going home tomorrow. Which might be a good thing for my marriage.

Cranky is an introvert/homebody and doesn’t really travel well. Cranky’s husband is an extrovert who would like to travel all the time. When he does travel, he gets hyper and wants to see everything and be out of the hotel approximately 15 hours a day. Cranky wants to sit in cafes and eat a late breakfast in bed. The first time I traveled with my husband I brought my own pillow. He made fun of me. So now the pillow stays home and I can’t sleep. A hard foam pillow will keep me awake. A hard mattress drives me nuts. Polyester sheets are preposterously torturous. I need the right light to read in bed, so I can fall asleep. And the perfect temperature. Oh, and the perfect blanket. Exactly like the one I have at home. There is a hotel in LA that has a pillow menu. That is my kind of place.

Basically, I could enjoy vacation if I could take a moving truck. I once snuck my down comforter with the high thread count cover into my suitcase.

So a few days without these things and ah well, I get cranky. Even more cranky than usual. Then my digestion doesn’t work. Then I get even more cranky. Then my husband wonders why he married me.

While we were away, I had a nightmare. It was one of those real, real nightmares where you wake up still feeling upset. In the dream, my husband was divorcing me. We were in a courtroom. My husband was standing in front of the judge. It went like this:

The Judge says, “So Mr. Cranky you are filing for divorce?”

“Yes Your Honor” says my husband.

“On what grounds, Mr. Cranky?” says the Judge.

“Constipation” says my husband.

The Princess and The Pea(Nut)

The last play I wrote that was produced in New York City was in a festival in Midtown. The festival people were great and the festival was run really well. My play was a short play, so I was paired up with another writer to make a complete program.
The other writer didn’t appear to know what she was doing, but she was determined to be the boss and run the show.
Getting the Equity paperwork out of her was nearly impossible, and we almost missed the deadline. It squeaked in, by me hand delivering it, smiling, begging, and paying a rush fee.

I put the program together and emailed her a copy. She never looked at the email, and found a typo in one of her cast’s names the day before opening AFTER it had been printed. Love that.

I let her chose which play would go first. She wanted first, natch. We teched separately. I attended her tech run through to see what we would be dealing with for a set change.

Her set had a rope tied to the sprinkler system on the 18-foot ceiling. A big heavy rope. They had to bring out a huge ladder and take it down between the plays. Not a swift transition. If she had chosen to go second it wouldn’t be a problem, but the princess had to go first. So I let it go, and figure we’ll deal. You don’t was a cumbersome drawn out set change between plays for the sake of the audience. For my play, we were using a few black cubes to keep it simple.
We find out the day before opening night ,that we need someone to help with the box office. When I ask her, before I finish my sentence she says, “OH I DON’T KNOW ANYBODY.” At least make believe you are trying to think of someone before speaking. It’s my fault. My OCD is showing and she can tell I’m gonna take care of it. You have to look like you don’t really care to get her to do anything. I didn’t do that.

On opening night when she is setting up for her play, a giant bag of Styrofoam peanuts appears. “What the fuck?” I think. The next second they are dumped on the stage. To signify an ice flow on a river. A MILLION FUCKING STYROFOAM PEANUTS! As they say in Brooklyn, “You gotta be shitting me.”

I went to tech. I saw the tech. THERE WAS NOT A PEANUT IN SIGHT. There was not a peanut even mentioned. This is why you have tech, so you can strike and set up EXACTLY the way you will be doing it for performance.

I say nothing to her. There is no point now. The peanuts are out of the bag.

Everything on the stage for her play is labeled with signs. The rope has a sign that says ROPE. A box has a sign that says DOCK. A play by a retard for retards. I can’t figure out what it is about. Someone eats and apple and commits suicide. Really heavy dude.

After her play is performed, her actors walk off stage and don’t do dick. My actors are stuck with the fucking peanuts. The director and I jump onstage and start sweeping, while her stage manager is doing a high wire act with the rope.
It was all so unnecessary. If this play had a fucking real snow machine from Hunter Mountain, it wouldn’t have helped. And why not use a white sheet instead of a five-foot bag of Styrofoam peanuts? Why not? Because the mind who dreamed up this fachada play would never think of anything logical/simple like that.

We have a reception after the plays. Guess who sets up for the party? Guess who takes care of the comps for both casts? Guess who looks like she is losing her mind?

She arrived for opening night carrying a bag of things for the party. Princess dumps it at my feet and says,” Would you bring this upstairs for me?” I said NO. Aren’t you proud of me? When the party was over, she asked me if I would bring her stuff home and then bring it back the next day so she won’t have to carry it. No again sister. She gets the “WHAT WERE THEY THINKING” award.

We get fined for the rope tied to the sprinkler. A safety violation. The director of the festival attended the play and charged out of the theater totally beet red faced with fury.

We got reviewed. The reviewer mentioned the ungainly set change. The reviewer also detested her play. THE REVIEWER LOVED MY PLAY. It was Karmic justice, don’tcha think? The title of the pairing was “Two With Troubles” the reviewer added: “Only one actually.” Her play was described as: “ A meager meal that was perplexing and difficult to follow. We don’t even get a try at the meaning of life.”

My play was described as: “A nice encapsulated character study between the two different worlds…clear and illuminating.. Succeeding as satisfying theater…”

Thank you. The suffering was worth it. Good blurbs from a review are everything to a writer.

Since then, I’ve only had plays I write produced out of town by other people. Ohio, Kentucky. All I have to do is put them in an envelope and lick the stamps. No princesses, no peanuts.

You Can’t Be Late If I’m Late

My post holiday blahs have now turned into FULL BLOWN SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER. Which makes making it to an early appointment on time a problem. On top of FBSAD, I had to get ready for an early appointment the other day on no sleep.
Couldn’t sleep because I had taken a horrid boot camp class where we had to go back to back with another person and loop elbows and go around the gym putting our butts on the floor and getting back up again. I was paired up with a muscle man who ended up dragging me around the gym by my elbows. Why why why don’t I just stick to Pilates and Yoga? The enlightened regimes. So,I think one shoulder might have been ripped out of socket or something.

When I woke up, late, I ran in circles trying to figure out what to do first. Because after finally falling asleep, I had overslept. I was living proof that what Napoleon once said to his manservant, “Dress me slowly, I’m in a hurry,” is absolutely true. But it is also absolutely against my high-strung spaz-out pre-audition self to follow it.

Should I wash my hair? I had planned to wash it, but now am squeezed for time. Must do the old silk groom and flat iron dirty hair trick. If ever get an award (like the first ever Black Box Awards) I will say in my speech, “I owe my career to the Chi Flat Iron.”

Had to hold two refrigerated jam jars over my eyes to get rid of the puffiness. (Don’t you love all the free beauty tips you are getting here?) Put the Visine in both eyes. Made note to but the atomic powered blue eye drops the makeup artists use. (Your welcome.)

The perfect sweater I just HAD to wear had a big hole in the sleeve. How did that happen? No time now to sew it. I have a million sweaters, but you have to wear what feels right for the day, so I wore it anyway, and pushed up the sleeves to cover up the hole. Clothes have a vibe, and you have to have to right vibe.

Took me a good ten minutes to get my new boots on. But HAD to wear those also.

Did a partial makeup job. Had to finish it on the subway. Hoped to have time to do it on the platform, as the fascinated stares of the other passengers as I put on mascara, and make the mascara face, make me cringe. I should put “applying mascara in a moving car” with the special skills my resume.

I somehow never got around to working with the script, so read it on the subway, after I put on the mascara. I am already off book when the train pulls into the station.

I AM ON TIME, with torn sweater and blobby mascara.

I enter the waiting area and find that they have double booked the time slots and are running way behind. “Really? Fuck off. I could be sewing my sweater right now!” I think. “I busted my ass to get here on time. I put mascara on in the subway!”
The reason it bothered me that they were running late, was because I was running late. After I skipped so many steps to get there on time, it irks.

In general I have a forty-five minute rule. I’ll wait forty-five minutes, and then I’m outta there. But, the holy sweater is working my nerves now that THEY are running late.

When they bring me in, I am, of course, ALL SMILES. Bravely rising above my FBSAD.


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