Thursday, June 27, 2013

Liars, scammers and cheats, oh my!

Unfortunately, many of us will cross paths with people who have malicious intent.  They may lie, commit a crime such as embezzlement, or otherwise take advantage of those who believe in honesty.

Last night, I got more than one call from someone who purported to be a Microsoft Certified Technician.  I shouldn’t have even picked up the Unknown Name call, but I have a good friend who sometimes comes up that way on Caller ID....

The guy said MS servers showed reports that my PC suffered critical errors and could crash at any moment.  I’d worked with actual MSCTs extensively over Memorial Day, and wondered if that was how they had my PC ID and other information. 

I was very skeptical from the get go, and kept asking how I could be sure this wasn’t a scam.  The guy told me to go into run/eventvwr/custom views/administrative events.  Sure enough, there were literally hundreds of red error exclamation points and dozens of yellow warnings. Very scary looking. 

To fix these issues, he wanted me to download something from, which he said partnered with Microsoft.  That was that.  I knew better than to download anything.

I’m annoyed that I even gave the guy the time of day.  But I had spent many hours with MSCTs only a month ago, and thought perhaps they were following up because of that.  I wish you could hear how convincing and persistent he was.  I’m glad I didn’t fall for it.  But how many do? 

How many people trust that others have good intentions?  It's sad that bad apples spoil so many bushels.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gifts that keep on giving

Every career has its ups and downs, so sometimes we have to take the good with the bad.  When I embarked upon the life of a freelancer after 16 years in corporate America sales, marketing and training, I knew I was leaving behind more than four weeks of paid vacation and personal days, benefits, and a salary. I knew I’d need to rely even more on self-discipline.  I didn’t know what would surprise me the most--positively or negatively-- about my new lifestyle.

The not as good:

1. Scheduling. 
a. Auditions can pop up at any time. If it's on-camera, they’ll say, “Be at this casting agency at 1:05 on Tuesday.”  Only rarely can you ask for a different time.  Turnaround times for VO auditions seem to be getting shorter. 

b. It's great to be put on first refusal or hold for a project, but I can’t really plan anything else for that day or days. And there's no way of knowing when I’ll find out if I booked the job or have been released.          

c. More and more often the recording or shoot date is listed as TBD. 

2. Being a one-man-band.  I record and edit some jobs and submit most VO auditions from home.  So I had to learn more than I wanted to about audio engineering. Fortunately I have helpful, knowledgeable friends, and access to other home and actual studios, should the need arise. Sometimes I'll record a big audition with a friend so I have another set of ears to hear if I'm meeting the audition specs.  More on-camera auditions now ask for self-submissions. Meaning I need someone to help with recording and to be my reader if it’s a scene or spot with dialogue. 

The great:

1. Rerecords.  I didn’t realize how many times clients would make changes to things I’ve recorded and need rerecord sessions. Sometimes there are only a few short paragraphs to record, but they have to pay for an hour of my time.  And I don’t have to audition.

2. Usage fees.  A job usually has a session fee plus usage, such as X dollars for Y months on the Internet.  When those Y months are up, if they want to keep using the recording, they have to pay again.

3. Lifts.  Sometimes I’ll do, say, a :30 spot.  Then they decide they also want to make it into a :15, so they “lift” some of the content.  And I get paid for that, though I don’t do any additional work.
May there be many more great surprises.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Stop Procrastinating

I'm not usually a procrastinator.  I rarely pulled all-nighters in college or graduate school (except on occasion to type a long paper in the days before word processing or even correct keys).  I don't scramble to meet deadlines and am always early.  But I confess to procrastinating on a recent project.

I much prefer the satisfaction of productivity, accomplishment and checking items off my list than carrying around the weight of not finishing something I need to do.  This project hung over me like a dark cloud, yet I still put off finishing it. And that made me feel worse. 

People procrastinate for a variety of reasons.  Some do it out of fear...of failure or success.  Others, to avoid unpleasant, difficult or seemingly overwhelming or possibly painful tasks or conversations.  Online research shows some consider chronic procrastination to be an addictive disorder.

In my case, the diagnosis was secondguessitis.  I'd sit down to do the work with plenty of time to devote, yet be stifled by uncertainty.  Would the recipients like it?  Was the product as good as I could make it?  Did I need more preparation or research before diving in?  Instead of pressing on, just doing it and trusting my instincts and experience, I'd troll the Internet, run errands, clean and organize my condo, make time for less important stuff....    

Some interesting takes on why people procrastinate:
Time Management

BBC News Magazine


The Neighborhood Counselor

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Good news!

This week, I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of good news.  For an actor, that can come in many forms.  I’ve been Gainfully Unemployed for years, but it’s still good news every time an audition comes in.  IMO, it’s better news if it’s for one of the three major Chicago casting directors and/or an ongoing gig. 

A callback is next up the food chain.  That means the field has been narrowed, and you get another opportunity to show what you can do and further relationships.  Next might be a “first refusal,” meaning you’re in the running (and if you get another job the same day, you have to let the first client know so s/he can decide to book you or not).  After that is “on hold” or “on ice,” which according to SAG-AFTRA means you’re due a cancellation fee if you’re not booked.  All three show your agent and the casting director or client that you brought to the table what was required, and show all industry professionals involved that you can do the job.  If you don't get selected, it's probably for reasons out of your control, such as the mix of blondes and brunettes, tall or short, young or older actors required.  

Booking the job is best, of course because you earn money.  You get to work with new and/or familiar actors, clients, production staff and crew,  and perhaps have another clip for your demo reel.  Other times, it's exciting because it's a role you really wanted, for someone you've been hoping to work with, or perhaps something you've been wanting to try that's outside your comfort zone . 

This week so far, I have 10 auditions (and a nice mix of VO, on-camera and print at that), one callback (independent feature film), one first refusal (TV spot), and a booking for next week.

 Here’s to more good news.