Thursday, May 31, 2012

Three on-camera auditions in 75 minutes

Today is a first...three on-camera auditions at three locations in 75 minutes.  I got the first audition, for a pilot, on the 29th.  I found out about the second, an industrial, at around 1:30 yesterday.  And the third, another industrial, at 4:30.  I never know when the phone will ring or for what.  

Sometimes they offer an audition time range, say 11-1, and you can choose a time.  Other times, especially if the audition is at one of the big three casting agencies, you're given a specific slot and can't switch.  Because the time for the third conflicted with the second, I had to quickly see if I could reschedule.  I could.  I don't know if it would've worked out if I hadn't been available to take the call about #3. 

I don't want to say no to an agent and miss out on an opportunity.  The bigger the job, the more I want to go. Not only do I have to be available for the audition, but also for the shoot date(s). And if there's a callback, that too. Sometimes they'll just say, "The callback is on Thursday," and not give a time frame.  I'm grateful for my flexible schedule. Though one shoot date may conflict with a VO booking I already have....

The three locations aren't too far apart, but if one place is running behind, getting to the next might be a challenge.  I can't let the pressure of being on time interfere with being in the moment.

#1 is a few short lines to memorize, with a Southern accent.  #2 requires the use of my ear prompter...a small tape recorder onto which I record the 2+ minute script.  Then via an earphone like news anchors wear, I play the recording back and repeat what I say, trying not to lose my place or look like a deer in the headlights as I listen to my voice.  Try this with radio news...repeat what the anchor says. 

I'm not quite sure how #3 will work because the script involves several people.  Sometimes they'll have a reader go through it with me, other times I'll audition with other actors.  We may or may not have a few minutes to rehearse.   

Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Technology vs. time & $

As a Gainfully Unemployed feelancer, each week brings a variety of projects.  Which means I need to complete a variety of tasks on my computer and/or laptop--from recording, editing and uploading voice files to scanning and sending documents, printing in black/white or color, using FTP, the Internet for research or ordering supplies, social media like Facebook (anyone know how to get texts when an organization, such as a casting agency, not an individual friend, updates its status?  I somehow set a few up to do that, but now can't find the way), email, Word, Excel and/or PowerPoint, business card programs, etc. 

Challenges can arise when I need to do something not in my computer skills repertoire, especially if it requires software I don't already own.  I'm not great with trial and error, and the plethora of options and online tutorials can be confusing or not have the answer to my question.  When it comes to new technology,  I don't have a long fuse, and can become frustrated if it takes a long time to get the software to do what I want it to do.
Today I need to rip a clip from a (not copyright protected) DVD of a cable TV show I hosted to add to my on-camera reel.  Ripping DVDs can't be that hard, right?

I thought I already had a program, which I found and opened.  So far, so good.  I figured out how to copy my DVD onto another DVD, but despite visiting the cryptic help center, going online and trying several things, couldn't figure out how to copy it to my computer or extract the clip I wanted.  I looked for videos, but the ones I found were about copying files from your hard drive to a DVD.  A couple of articles had too many steps I wasn't sure how to follow.

Too much time later, I still had nothing.  Which, I confess, made me feel a little less smart.  But I knew how to feel smarter: ask a skilled friend for help.  And offer to do a favor in return.

Moral of the story:  Sometimes it's better to ask someone to do a task for you or show you how than spend your valuable time and brain power trying to be independent.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Anatomy of a VO Job

A versatile working actor’s schedule can change at the drop of a hat. Take yesterday.

I’d already given my availability Wednesday and Thursday for a job (that might be print, VO and/or on-camera), so they had first dibs. Late afternoon Monday, I got a check avail/put times on hold for a different VO that would record early Wednesday morning.  (I hadn't even auditioned for it, which means they probably chose me from my demos.) 

I contacted the first opportunity, but they still weren’t sure about scheduling. So I tried to buy time with the second.

Then Monday at 11:59pm, I got an email about a TV commercial audition Wednesday at 1:15, which I'd be able to make if I got the second job assuming my session was early enough, but might not be able to make if I got the first job.

Late Tuesday morning, the second said if they didn’t hear within an hour, they’d have to go with another talent. Fortunately the first got back to me in the nick of time, saying they didn’t need me Wednesday, but would later in the week. I contacted the second and within an hour was booked.

Whew. This time it looked like I’d get both gigs. Sometimes when more than one client checks availability, I end up with neither...because of scheduling issues or because the client (which could be one person or several) is considering a few talents and goes a different direction.

The script arrived around 5pm Tuesday. I found out that I and a male VO I’ve worked with before were to play multiple roles.  We were advised to review them all. I do a lot of straight, serious narration, so this was an opportunity to stretch my comedic character wings and do several within one project.  

Often I record alone, even if my character is having a conversation with another. The guy’s session was first, so we assumed we’d pass like ships in the night. But when I arrived, they had him stay so we could record some dialogue and other bits together.  I also sang a short, funny song with the client.

I enjoy all VO jobs. But it’s more fun to interact with other talent, and I think it’s easier to react and results in better timing for the actors and the engineers.  It's also easier for  to have different reactions on the second take, because you can respond in real time to the other person/people instead of making up something in your head.
Since we both recorded some of the roles, I’m really looking forward to hearing the final version, fully produced with sound effects and music.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Some of us are more trusting than others.  I think trust is like a bank.  People--whether family, friends, relatives, significant others, clients, or service providers from the cable guy to politicians--add to or delete funds from their  account through their words and actions.

If someone keeps a promise, does what he/she says, perhaps goes beyond the call, the balance increases.  One of America's basic legal tenets is "innocent until proven guilty."  We may believe what someone tells us...until we receive proof to the contrary, which results in a withdrawal.  What will that person have to do to restore trust?  What will we have to do if we want to forgive?     

At times people have a good reason for not following through.  If we receive what we consider to be sufficient notice or explanation, their trust balance may remain unchanged. 

Most of us want to believe people have good intentions, are honest and reliable.  Sometiemes life shows us otherwise.  We might trust the wrong people.  Being betrayed hurts, and can make us wonder why we didn't see it coming.  In some cases, trust is a leap of faith, and only time will tell if we made a good decision.

Feelancers can have trust issues.  New clients may wonder if we'll deliver a quality product on time.  We may wonder if a client will pay.  Sometimes the more people involved in a project, the more room for misinformation, miscommunication and misunderstanding, which can lead to less trust.   

Has my law degree has made me more skeptical or more realistic?  Unfortunately, I've seen evidence that some may breach contracts, lie, and/or commit a crime(s) knowing the pursuit of justice will probably cost more time, money, effort and stress than whatever was lost. Or that, given the vagaries of the legal system, they might win any legal proceeding and not be penalized.  Others knowingly manipulate by taking advantage of weaknesses.  How do these people look at themselves in the mirror and sleep at night?   

A recent example: the Dixon, Illinois comptroller who embezzled millions

Thursday, May 03, 2012

To be the best

Since the first Olympics, which supposedly were circa 776 BC, or perhaps before, society has rewarded the best.  The proliferation of awards shows such as the Academy Awards and the Grammys, reality TV shows such as American Idol  and the vast amount of publicity surrounding them, show that while being successful in your field is great, more value is placed on the finalists and the most on the winners.  America's Next Top Model and Project Runway even had an All Stars cycle to honor the best of the best.

I remember wanting to be best at something from a young age.  Many might say just enjoy the journey, it's doing your best, not being best that counts, etc.  But then there's also winners never quit, quitters never win.
Last year my medieval At His Command won Romance Writers of America's® Golden Heart® award for best unpublished inspirational manuscript.  What an amazing night.  But being the best can be fleeting.  My name/picture is still on the website, but now there's a new crop of finalists.  Some 2011 finalists finaled again this year.  A good number of my fellow finalists have acquired an agent and/or sold, some more than one book.  I'm still working on that.  What can I be the best at right now?

Maybe it's helping friends edit and finish their manuscripts.  There's no award that I know of for best critiquer, but many thank me in their books, though that's not my goal.  I truly enjoy critiquing, offering suggestions and especially finding typos. 

But I wonder who's been thanked the in the most books for contributions and/or support and encouragement?  Among the authors who've thanked me are NYT and USA Today bestseller Simone Elkeles and NYT bestseller Tracy Anne Warren, who thanked me in The Husband Trap Simone has thanked me in many of her books, and even dedicated Leaving Paradise to me.

Recently I critiqued a proposal for another multi-published friend Terri Reed, who thanked me in The Secret HeiressAnd after commenting via track changes, I've been talking through things and motivating another friend to finish his first book.  I'm expecting a couple of more projects to critique.  It can be time consuming, but also rewarding.     

Of course, some friends have helped me in return by reviewing parts of my manuscripts.  I just don't have any published novels to thank them in yet.  I look forward to the day when I can.