Business, Life, Money, Movies, Television

Baby, You’re A Star


Sunday was a nice, blustery day so we decided to get out of the house and do a little bit of shopping – mostly window-wishing – at the local outlet.

As is the case with most outlets these days, the walkways are riddled with independent vendors trying to push their wares to anybody that passes. I had heard it said that these guys are the modern-day equivalent of pop-up ads and it’s true: they just keep pestering you.

But one booth wasn’t selling tennis shoe polish, laser-etched iPhone cases or fidget spinners (and I swear if I hear my kid say that one more time, I’ll scream). And unlike most of the booths, it was unmanned when we passed it.

What they were selling was a Hollywood dream to make it big in television and movies. It was a casting agency that specialized in recruiting children and teens for studios like Nickelodeon, Disney, etc. or so they say.

And it wasn’t until we were ready to leave when we were approached by the person who was running the booth. Apparently she thought we looked like a bunch of pigeons as she walked up to us, taking particular interest in Anthony.

She first asked if we were local. I confirmed her suspicion. Then the spiel began about how she was looking for teens age whatever-to-whatever to cast for shows on the aforementioned networks. That’s when I started to grin and then dropped the mic on her.

“Nah, that’s okay. I used to do background acting and…”

At the mention of “background acting” I swear that woman left a puff of smoke behind her and disappeared faster than Usain Bolt in the 100m dash.

Why is that?

There are a few reasons for her to not take interest in me or Anthony.

First, casting agencies in general. When you’re selling Hollywood to some slack-jawed yokel that doesn’t know any better, they will of course shovel out whatever it takes to make their kid a star. And that’s the problem: legit agencies will NEVER ask for money up front, and you can bet that this one was going to ask me for my wallet in order to get Anthony a few headshots that would be stuffed into an album of hundreds of others that already got bilked and still haven’t been cast for anything. For my casting file, my headshot was taken with a digital camera at the agency. That’s all they need especially if it’s only non-union background work. Speaking parts require SAG-AFTRA union membership and that costs money, something that you pay directly to the union and not the agency. Only then will you make decent money. Until then it’s minimum wage, baby. Except may for the monetary bumps for exposure to smoke, water, or the studio using your car in the background as well. Living the Hollywood dream? Hardly.

Second, I’ve seen what kids have to go through in this industry. For adults, it’s no big deal other than hustling for more jobs during your downtime between shots and there is a lot of downtime. For kids, however, it means having their parents on location with them, going to the on-set “school” between shots, and just long days that nobody that young should be put through. There’s never guarantee of when the production will wrap and if they have another shoot the next morning or get a callback for the current one, it’s a lot of stress for parents and kids. Kids also get hungry and antsy. This is why they are so hard to work with. It’s a miserable existence and a life I would never wish on any child. Believe me, it’s nothing like what you see on the screen or social media.

I can say quite confidently that those last two paragraphs are exactly what went through the mind of this woman as she ran away from me. She knew I had an inside track about the industry and didn’t even want to mess with me.

So sorry, kid. You’re not going to be the next big thing.

But you’ll always be our star.

Photo May 07, 5 28 41 PM

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Economy, Entertainment, Money, Television, Work

And That’s How It Ended


loserIt seems like I write these posts all too often and when I do, they always seem to bring me down.

This is the one time that I refuse to do that.

It was at about 2:45 pm on Friday when I saw one of the ladies from my staffing agency/employer walk in the building. As usual, she had her leather folder with her and as is normally the case when she arrives, all of the contract workers feel the hair on the back of their neck stand up because they never know what news she may be bringing.

She came into our little corner of the building and smiled, asking how everything was going. I gave her my input and then she asked if she could speak to me.

I was taken into an office where my supervisor was already sitting and waiting. Well, at this point it wasn’t hard to figure out that this meeting would have little to do with my getting a raise or an award for Outstanding Service. Kathy, the pseudonym I’ll be using for the agency rep, spoke first but not before she let out a sigh.

“As you know, the company has been going through some budget cuts…”

That was pretty much all I needed to hear and knew exactly what the next line, or at least the only line of speech that mattered, would be.

“As a result, your assignment is ending as of today.”

I sat there and showed no emotion. Kathy continued to speak which then turned into some spiel about how dependable and hard-working I was during my nearly three years on the assignment. She glanced over at my now-former supervisor as if to get some input from her.

“We’re really, really sorry to see you go,” she said. I spoke only two words to her the entire meeting and they were “Thank you.” I will explain later in the post when things get a little more…detailed.

The meeting ended without much else. I signed no papers, got nothing in return. It was over.

As is the norm, Kathy gave me a few minutes to gather my things and to say goodbye to the rest of the crew. It didn’t take me long to do either: as a contract worker, you learn to travel light and that’s exactly what I did. I stuffed what few personal belongings I had into my backpack and slung it over my shoulder. All the while, I explained to my fellow proofreader Lola what had just happened. She immediately burst into tears.

“You have my contact info. Give it to whomever asks about me,” I told her. I later texted her with a precautionary “Use your discretion when you give out my info. You know who I liked around there.”

It was always my wish that when the time came and I finally found another job, I would leave this place without a word. No news is good news; I figured it’d be best if they all found out as a group during the next painfully boring Monday meeting, which they will this coming Monday. Not that many would give a crap. I adhered to that wish but sadly, under completely different and unexpected circumstances.

Lola, still crying, asked if we’d catch up sometime.

“Karaoke Night, July 19th, 8:30. You know it.” I then shook hands with Grant, the other proofreader in our little nook of an office.

I then said goodbye to another fellow proofreader, telling her that Lola has my contact info if she wanted it. With that, I met Kathy and I walked out of the place for the last time – not a single regret, not one tear, no remorse.

Kathy later met me at the parking structure gate so that I could turn in my ID to her after I used it for the last time to leave. I walked to my car and gave Ann a call telling her the news. Naturally, she was upset but it’s nothing we hadn’t gone through before and nothing we won’t get through again.

I got in the car and made my way to Level One, where Kathy was standing at the gate. I swiped my ID, handed it over, thanked her, watched the arm raise and gave the Yaris some gas. I looked up at the Google building one last time.

And with that I was done. My time at this place was finally over. A contract position that was originally scheduled to last only from October 2010 to February 2011 nearly made it to July 2013. Not a bad run if you ask me.

Now if I may, I’d like to go into a few details about the job and why I show no remorse or pity toward my layoff.

In addition to traveling lightly, a contact worker understands that the chances of them being let go for any reason are exponentially greater than a regular full-time gig. That’s just how it is. I was there for almost three years; I’ve seen people get cut after only a few weeks. That’s the nature of the business.

As such, one of the things I decided to do was to not get too close to any of the permanent employees, most of whom had already dedicated a good portion of their sad, pathetic lives to this company. They will live out the rest of their working careers here in complete misery doing a mundane job and deal with the rigors of it because they have the safety of job security no matter which way the projects flow. Contractors, on the other hand, are a dime a dozen and when one is let go and another big project begins, the list of potential candidates is long. While I did associate with the permanent people, I didn’t get close – for my own safety and privacy. Many of them would be hard-pressed to tell you more than five things they knew about me if anything at all.

Let me put it to you this way: it’s highly unlikely I will be receiving any Facebook Friends requests from any of them and in the likelihood I do, they will not be approved. Aside from the few coworkers I’ve trusted to connect with on Facebook, nobody from there needs to know anything else about me.

There is a strange dynamic between temps and permanent workers. I had always felt that the temps were treated like second-class citizens who knew little to nothing about the job and could be replaced a moment’s notice. This is even more true when you are proofreader, rushing to get projects done only to have all of the glory go to the project manager or content owner. You try proofreading a foreign language like Bulgarian or Greek or even Chinese for 40 hours a week, in some cases under deadline pressure and people breathing down your neck, knowing you will get no glory or even the proverbial pat on the back.

Nothing.

Then there’s my supervisor. All I will say is that from the moment I met her, she was cold, unfeeling and robotic, which is why I only spoke two words to her during the meeting. Praise from someone like that is absolutely meaningless and if anything, insulting. During the meeting her eyes were cold and steely and said nothing just as they always did. I didn’t say a word or even glance at her as I walked by her office toward the exit. She’s just as over me as I am her.

On the job itself, one word: tedious. Okay, maybe two: tedious and boring.

Let’s kick it up a notch: tedious, boring and monotonous. You will never find a less rewarding job than this one. “Proofreading” in terms of this company meant comparing two copies to each other and noticing any differences. It was very similar to those children’s cartoon drawings where you have to find the difference between the Easter Bunny on the left and the Easter Bunny on the right.

“Oh, look! That egg only has one star but THAT one has two! Daddy, there’s a difference! I’d better circle it!”

That’s about how exciting it was to do my job. In addition, I can’t tell you how inconsistent things were around that place. What was correct on one document wasn’t necessarily correct on another and there were no style guides to refer to. We couldn’t mark up anything unless it was absolutely, positively, 100% wrong. All corrections had to be noted with a sticky and our notes on said sticky. We were not free to edit, suggest, do anything outside of count whiskers on the two Easter Bunnies. And when we did, The Old Guard of Proofreading came into our office and pontificate about what we did wrong and usually in a condescending manner. There was no reward here, ever.

The Monday Meetings were always a joy. What they usually came down to was how low the coffee supply was and what needed to be ordered for the next time. When work was discussed, it was always a “Me! Me! Me!” mentality. Every single one of the people in our department thought their project was the most important and always placed the blame on someone else when things didn’t get done. The Blame Game ran rampant around there and I will not miss it. The level of incompetence was astounding and I’m surprised anything got done at all. Way too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

The new boss, who still lives on the east coast and flies back and forth frequently, seemed more interested in assembling teams designed to manage our workload using PowerPoint presentations filled with Venn diagrams and business acronyms useless to anyone outside of management. I swear, if I hear the word “kaizen” again I’m gonna puke. We knew she was not the same as our old boss the moment she arrived: we never had a meeting announcing her arrival and she rarely spoke to us. I will not miss her. At all. There’s nothing to miss. At least our old boss was a fire-eater at Burning Man.

But I will miss my fellow temps — just not the commute. Not at all. It was an absolutely crappy drive, day in and day out for almost three years. Someone else can take it from me and I won’t complain.

Finally, there’s this. I was on the job for nearly three years and there were plenty of opportunities to move to different departments. Not necessarily a promotion but a chance to get away from proofreading. During my time, I saw many, many people (some of much less seniority) get placed into open positions and even taken on as permanent employees. I can’t think of a bigger slap in the face than that, even if I had no intentions of accepting any of these open positions. A little recognition, like perhaps inquiring with me about the position, would have gone a long way.

But it never happened. Thanks for nothing, yet again.

So with that all done, now what?

In the past I would have cried and gotten really upset over a situation like this, but today it’s different.

I pick myself up. I dust myself off. I move on. We have gone through this before and we will make it through again, this time with less financial difficulty. We recently refinanced one of the cars and with our last tax refund, paid off all of our credit cards. We have very little debt outside of utilities and we have a little stash in case of emergency. It will work.

I refuse to let this nightmare of a job make me shed one tear over its decision to let me go. If anything, it forces me to look at other opportunities I may have never considered and perhaps work outside my comfort zone. No, it won’t be the fantastic summer we had planned but we will still be able to go through with some of the things we wanted to do.

In my studying of Buddhism and meditating some evenings, I’m finding that there are things to worry about and things not to worry about. This, while certainly monumental, will pass as all challenges do. I will overcome it and things will continue because they must.

To quote the Dalai Lama:

I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.

Wise words. And it’s what I’ve chosen to do at this point in time.

Dave v2.0 is obsolete. This is the beginning of Dave v3.0, and I like it. I will pick up and continue on Tuesday. But why not Monday?

Because shortly after I got home last night, I started calling the casting line for Central Casting, my background acting agency. This has always been my backup, my go-to, my last resort for income should I ever need it.

I found a call I thought was a good fit and had the CD submit my headshot.

Then I waited — and got the call.

So the reason I can’t do anything on Monday because I was cast for a TV show. It’s my first background acting gig in years and it’s less than seven miles from home. Sure it’s only a one-day shoot but I get fed and paid to do nothing but walk around.

My layoff isn’t the end of something. It has already proven to be the start of something better than I ever imagined.

Namaste, my friends. And here’s to brighter days.

Blogstuffs

Podcast About Background Acting


Hey all,

I was interviewed about background acting for the blog Running In Flip Flops. Give it a listen if you ever wanted to know what it takes and what to expect.

I will be joining Russ once again on Saturday to discuss one of my favorite topics: ’80s music. Should be fun!

Career, Economy, Entertainment, jobs, Life, Unemployment Files, Work

Background Break


Background acting has been an extremely enlightening and fun experience, but I’m going to miss it.

I’ve decided that after I finish my job for the show Outlaw tomorrow, I will be taking an indefinite break from this cool little gig. But before I post the reasons why, here’s a quick list of what makes it so much fun.

It’s Not Hard Work: When compared to other jobs I could be working for minimum wage, this trumps them all. It’s about maybe 3 hours of work per day and the rest of the time is spent sitting around while they prepare the next scene.

Free Meals: I don’t think I need to say anything else other than I shouldn’t be eating this much. But it’s soooo good.

8 Hour Days A Rarity: Being on the set for 8 hours is definitely a rarity and you’re usually there a good 12 hours. This sounds good monetarily but again, it is a minimum wage job so at the end of the day, 12 hours gets me a little over $100 a day (on average, minus bumps).

It Shows EDD I’m Trying to Find Work: EDD likes to see that people receiving unemployment benefits are at least attempting to look for work, and this is one way I’m showing it to them. The downside is that I have to claim all of my income and it is then deducted from my unemployment checks.

In contrast to all that, here’s why I’m taking a break. Continue reading “Background Break”

jobs, Life, Movies, Television, Work

Good and Bad News


First, the bad.

I got yet another rejection letter today from another potential employer. I’m beginning to think I’ve got the plague or something. Maybe it’s because I’m not shifty enough to be a car salesman (which was the job I applied for) but meh, I’m still out there trying for anything. With just a few unemployment checks left, I’m *this* much closer to flipping burgers for a living, provided they even want me.

So what could possibly be the good news?

I was booked for my first role as an extra! I will post no details here but the call time for the shoot is very early and not too close to home. That means going to bed very early the night before and waking up very early the day of the shoot. At least this will show that I am working–or making an effort–so that California doesn’t get all pissy and whatnot about my unemployment status. All income has to be reported so it will be deducted from my next unemployment check anyway.

During the interview with the Casting Director, I was asked if I would be opposed to shaving my goatee to play the role of a sheriff. I had no problem with that but replied, “Excuse me?” just because I was feverishly taking notes–a requirement for these kinds of jobs–at the same time. Instead I was cast as a protester so no big deal. I really wouldn’t have had an issue with shaving it off but in hindsight, it was a good idea I didn’t because:

  • One of the requirements of the job is that you must update your photo whenever your physical appearance changes, and this can only be done in person not online. So I would have had to spend my day in line again at the agency just to switch photos. Nah.
  • If I had shaved, I could have just waited for it go grow back and not change my photo but then I wouldn’t have gotten any work because nothing matched. Figured it would be easier to maintain my look and keep looking for work than change it, take a new photo, then if I decided to let it come back, take another one. Too much.

This will definitely give my note-taking skills a test because many, many notes need to be taken for each call. But it’s work.

So instead of sitting around wondering what those yellow signs are for and what’s being filmed, I will now be on the inside looking out.

Fuckin’ eh, man. I’m gonna be in a movie or TV show (it wasn’t specified). How odd is this?

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Life, Movies, Television, Work

Ready for My Not-So-Close-Up


It’s been over a year full of flaming suck for me.

In addition to being laid off, I have had very few interviews for all of my efforts. Two of them, including one for the position of Publications Editor at my former employer, turned out to be a bust and I’m still waiting for the word on one that I went to over two weeks ago. And it’s not like I haven’t been trying–I’ve submitted applications all over the place for positions that did and didn’t pertain to my previous positions as proofreader and writer. One of them, in fact, was for a local grocery chain that was in need of Team Leader, a position that I believed I as more than qualified.

The result? Here’s an excerpt from the e-mail I received from them:

We have considered your application carefully and unfortunately at this time we will not be progressing it any further. We will keep your application on file for one year to consider for future opportunities.

So despite my management and retail experience, I wasn’t even qualified to manage a small group of people or even stock pineapples at a grocery store. Well, fuck you and your fucking pineapples, man.

And that’s pretty much been the way things have been going all year.

As you can guess, at this point in my life I’m pretty frustrated with it all, but not to a point where I was planning to jump off of a bridge or anything. That would just be stupid, but that doesn’t mean I’m not feeling any more useful on the employment scene, although I have to admit that it sucks to be unwanted.

And just as I was about buy a bunch of oranges and start selling them at freeway exits from a Target shopping cart, a thought came to mind. I decided that if things weren’t going my way, and they damn well aren’t as of now, I was the one who had to start making things happen. My unemployment benefits are running out very soon and I’m not quite sure if I can get an extension so it is indeed desperate times for me.

In addition to still applying for jobs that I don’t seem to be qualified for in any capacity (at least in the discriminating eye of the employer), today I decided to take a step in a direction I thought I’d never go: that of an actor. Or in this case, an extra.

Continue reading “Ready for My Not-So-Close-Up”