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

The Last Hurrah

Whatever the circumstances may have been, it seems that I missed the last two TV shows I worked on. But hey, as long as there’s Hulu or networks posting each episode online the day after each episode’s premiere, I guess I’m in good shape.

That’s where I was able to see my brief appearances in the shows Outlaw and Law & Order: L.A. Here are some screengrabs from both.

First, here’s my part in Outlaw (and where I pretty much sat for two days of shooting, only to appear in this shot):

I had to throw in that big red arrow so you can get a better idea of where I was. The scene was supposed to be set in Mexico but it was actually Pasadena City Hall, where all of the courtroom scenes were shot. It’s an absolutely beautiful place.

Unfortunately, this would be the last time I would work with the cast and crew of Outlaw as it has since been given the proverbial ax by NBC. That’s usually what happens when the show just can’t find a comfortable time slot. I had a blast with the cast and crew who did nothing but treat all of us with dignity and respect. I wish them all the luck in the world.

Then there’s Law & Order: L.A. I watched the episode and wasn’t able to see myself very well but you know what? I was able to see my car:

See the burgundy Ford Fusion parked right there outside the bogus marijuana dispensary? Yeah, that’s my car and what earned me an extra $15 on my paycheck for the day. Much like Outlaw, everybody with LOLA was a lot of fun to work with. Hope to do it again very soon.

And with those shots, my days of watching network TV in the hopes of seeing myself are done until I start booking myself once again, possibly after my contract is up with my current job. We’ll see how it all goes.

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!

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

Why You Should Hire Me

Want to know what my inbox has been like lately? Here are some excerpts of what I’ve seen.

From a local grocery chain regarding the position of Team Leader, August 3, 2010:

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.

(Note: they could use a proofreader as “progressing it” makes no sense.)

From a financial institution regarding the position of Bank Teller, August 25, 2010:

At this present time, there are other candidates whose qualifications more closely match the requirements for this position and we will be moving forward with them in the recruiting process.

From a major pharmacy chain regarding the position of Store Management, August 26, 2010:

After a thorough review of your resume, we have decided to pursue other candidates whose skills and experiences more closely meet our current needs.

(Note: they offered a complete training package even if you had minimal management experience, but I guess being a Department Manager at the World’s Largest Retailer for three years wasn’t good enough for them.)

Then there’s the letter I received from the company whose name is one letter off from Carfax, regarding the position of Auto Salesperson. It was pretty much the same as the ones listed above and frankly, I don’t know where it is to scan and post it.

No, checking my e-mail has not been very much fun lately because it’s been nothing but a barrage of denial letters the usual anti-Obama rhetoric from my Republican-’til-I-die father-in-law. About the only job offers I’ve been getting have been for those life insurance companies that, once I checked their backgrounds, turned out to be scams. And I often get calls from places that won’t give me the details of the job they are looking to fill but are more than eager to speak with me.

It’s actually getting to a point where I want to befriend one of those e-mail guys from Nigeria and hope that he is indeed the missing link between me and my long lost uncle ARISTOTLE MORENO III, who was killed in a freak plane accident off the coast of Barbados and had somewhere near $31 million USD in savings, with me being his only heir.

Yeah, it’s that bad. And my unemployment is up in October so who knows what I’m going to do if nothing steady turns up. (Oranges + shopping cart + freeway exit = profit?) About the only thing I could do is book myself at least three, perhaps four times a week for background acting work. Or somehow end up joining SAG and getting twice the hourly rate I’m getting now. But if not then I might as well leave the keys in both of the cars and wait for the Repo Depot to come around and take them away.

And despite me telling myself that it’ll get better, it’s getting harder and harder to believe.

Continue reading