Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rest In Peace, My Friend.

Over the weekend, my friend Chas Villante passed away.

That's him, on the right, with me in Utah. Every year, after spending a week with him skiing, I felt driven all over again to go after my dream. I've never seen anyone reach his full potential or lead a fuller life than Chas.

He walked on to the Syracuse football team as a quarterback. His position coach at the time was current New York Giant Head Coach Tom Coughlin. Coughlin is as ruthless as any coach that's ever patrolled the sidelines; spit flew into the faces of his Syracuse players as he screamed at them during drills. But at the end of the season, he pulled Chas aside and told him he was proud of how hard he had worked.

When his first job in advertising paid too little to afford an apartment, Chas commuted two hours each way from Pennsylvania to New York. He rose to the rank of Executive Creative Director and shot commercials all over the world.

He could play any song on guitar by ear. He stayed in his football playing shape into his forties. When he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, he was given a 90% chance of dying within a year – he lived for five.

Chas was always the most energetic, charismatic person in the room. He was a quarterback until the day he died.

How about, in lieu of sending flowers to his family, every person reading this attempts to do something this week that he or she has been afraid to pursue. I can't think of a more fitting tribute.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Inside The Actor's Tastefully-Decorated Suite.

A friend of mine from college, who's now a pharmaceutical rep back east, has business this week in Scottsdale, AZ, and asked me if I wanted to come stay with him at the very tony Mondrian Hotel. And thanks to the very paltry price of a flight on Southwest Airlines – 49 skins – here I am.

The place has got some serious size. It's nice to have a room in which entering does not require a flying leap and a handful of Crisco.

And last night, I realized my two new favorite words: "expensed" and "liquor."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mr. Spielberg, You Ever Read Blogs?

My friend Chris is an actor with a borderline psychotic obsession with movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

One night, Chris drove past Jerry's office building and noticed the lights were on. Chris parked, and tried the front door. It opened. He pushed the button for the elevator. It worked. Four floors up, the doors opened, and Chris was face to face with his hero. He froze, and was kindly escorted the hell out.

What Chris should have had ready was an "elevator pitch"– an overview of whatever he had to sell, delivered in the span of an elevator ride (say, thirty seconds or 150 words.)

I keep mine handy at all times, in case I bump into a real hitter. And no, it doesn't involve this crappy blog, but instead, the short film that I spent my life savings making. The radio commercial running in L.A. featuring my voice. And, as of yesterday, my new agent.

Much respect to Chris on your stalking skills. Just try not to crap the bed when you get there, big guy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

If You Need Me, Call My People.

Okay, two weeks ago I gushed about getting a new commercial agent. Scratch that.

A month before I received that news, I auditioned for an even more highly-respected place called The Daniel Hoff Agency. On Monday, they called and asked to represent me. I almost plotzed.

Daniel Hoff holds an open audition every Friday for actors who need representation. 75-100 actors show up each week, and every few months Daniel reviews the audition tapes and chooses his favorites. Of the upwards of 800 actors who auditioned, 4 were chosen. I was one.

It's one of the greatest days in the life of a starving actor. I may cry, but it's okay – tears are free.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

For A Refreshing Change, Let's Talk About Me.

28 entries in, and now I realize I've never talked about why I started writing this blog:

Perv repellant. If a young actor happens to stumble upon this, maybe he'll avoid an encounter with Creepy British Manager.

I'm forced to shower every now and then. Few things behoove me to get off my pasty white butt more than a public recording of my wheelings and dealings.

Raising my self-esteem above junior high school levels. The plight of every actor is that his career isn't substantial enough. Recapping my gigs helps me realize that I've already come a long way. And that my parents were wrong and I matter.

Me write gooder. I have been known to dabble with screenwriting, and a daily entry helps me flex my creative writing muscles. And where else do I get to use words like "shart" and "tranny"?

Suck in that gut, Tubs. Lastly, with today's photo, I get to share with the world my spot-on Hasselhoff impression.

Monday, March 24, 2008

This Is My Lincoln Memorial.

I grew up in New York, but I'll take Los Angeles over it any day of the week. If you bash L.A., them's fightin' words.

There are those that say this town has no history, and they are wrong. There's plenty, just not of the 200-year-old variety.

Thrice a week, on my way to casting workshops, I pass by the place pictured above. It was originally Charlie Chaplin's studios, built back in the 20s. Eventually, it became A&M Records, and it was here that the song "We Are the World" was recorded.

Today, it's Jim Henson Studios, home of the Muppets. And in a nice tribute, that's Kermit, above the front gate, dressed as Charlie Chaplin. Also cool: Charlie's old house, which was on the corner, is now a restaurant.

If that doesn't float your boat about L.A., fine. Come visit and I'll show you where Eddie Murphy tried to pick up a tranny.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Research Suggests 72% Of People Find Suicide To Be A Real Downer.

So says Lenny the TV exec, played by Sigourney Weaver, in the best movie you didn't see last year: The TV Set.

I especially recommend it to anyone in any sort of creative field. I saw it with a group of actor friends– first we laughed, then we cried.

It's out on DVD. Rent it and let me know.

Happy Easter, by the way. Sorry about killing your Lord. Or you're welcome. I'm not sure.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Put 'Em On Layaway.

While most of my friends understand my bank account is a mere three figures, some of them still look at me cockeyed whenever I cut a corner. In my defense, here's an inkling why:
  • Acting classes, which can cost up to $400 a month. Take two or three at once, and you're appproaching M.C. Hammer poor
  • Headshots– at least a grand to shoot and print, plus business cards and post cards. Only to repeat the whole shebang next year if I happen to shave, age or decide to feather my hair
  • Casting workshops– 35 bucks each, four times a week. A crack addiction is more financially sound
  • Driving to auditions, which some days entail a morning in Orange County, a mid-day in Hollywood and an afternoon in Santa Monica– a good 200 miles or so, with gas prices in L.A. approaching 4 bucks a gallon. Do I live in my car? I will, for real, soon
The grand total: upwards of $20,000 a year.

So the next time you see me separating two-ply toilet paper and using it twice, don't diss.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Word About Showbiz.

Last month, I had an audition for a commercial featuring a funny dialogue between two guys. I did my thing, got a laugh from the room full of advertising people and the director, and got a callback. I did my same thing during the callback, and never heard from them again.

Is rejection a part of my life? Is Eliot Spitzer sleeping on the couch? I get turned down daily, and it doesn't deter me one bit. I'll never give up, because I know I'm always one phone call away from winning the lottery.

So catch this: today I bumped into the director from that audition, and he told me that the reason I didn't book the commercial was because I looked too similar to the guy playing opposite me, and they chose to go with a blonde actor for some distinction. So it turns out I did my job and was good, and that's a win.

But if you happen to see me at CVS tomorrow picking up a bottle of Clairol Nice 'n Easy #98 Extra Light Neutral Blonde, it's for a friend.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Kickass Character Actor Sighting Of The Month.

Brian George, a.k.a. Babu Bhatt from TV's "Seinfeld", outside a café on Montana Ave.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

This Is One Time I Kept My Mouth Shut.

A couple of years ago, I responded to an entertainment listing by a man looking to manage up-and-coming actors. He asked me to meet him at his office one evening, and turned out to be a British dandy who kept dropping the name of his close friend Stevie Wonder. He also had some secret "theory" as to why certain actors rose above the ranks to become huge stars. The more he wouldn't delve into this theory, the more uncomfortable I became. It began to occur to me that this cat was testing how bad I really wanted to be an actor.

Not bad enough to go down on you, you limey windbag.

Oh, and he wanted me to pay him a monthly fee for this stellar representation.

Every prom king and prom queen arrive daily in this town with big dreams of acting success. And for each one of them, a snake lies in wait, ready to pray on their naivetĂ©. So I can't stress this enough to my fellow actors: beware of everyone. And never pay a manager to represent you– he should make money off you, not from you. Watch your back.

Thus ends today's disturbing storytime.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About XXX Acting.

I was talking to my porn-star friend the other day (and I challenge myself to ever come up with a cooler opening line than that) about how pornos could have vastly-improved acting.

I told her that it seemed to me that the people in these films are simply "doing" instead of "feeling" when it comes to delivering their lines. If they created some emotional specificity behind each word, they'd instantly upgrade their performances.

The problem, my friend explained to me, is that these actors for the most part don't enjoy what they must go through to earn a buck, so they purposely shut down their feelings in order to get through some rather challenging occupational hazzards.

Very interesting. And a teeny bit depressing. Unfortunately, every day my friend dispels the cool myths about adult film actresses with that damn brain of hers.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

One More Reason I Can Expense My Makeup.

I actually have one other agent, a print agent, who sets up modeling auditions. It's a nice way to earn some extra scratch, and there ain't a lot of heavy lifting involved.

Modeling does require a smidge of acting. That's me, above, at 4 a.m., pretending it's 8 p.m., pretending these people are my BFFs, and pretending to yuk it up over a rack of ribs that I'm pretending I'm allowed to consume.

This picture is for ESPN Zone sports restaurants, and you'll find it on their website, and poster-sized outside their location in Anaheim.

I personally find it odd to see what I look like actually affording a meal out, as opposed to my usual peanut butter sandwich eaten over the kitchen sink.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Now Batting For New York: That Guy From "Soap."

Yesterday, Billy Crystal made me physically jealous when he played in a spring training game for my team, the New York Yankees.

Nothing rivals the perks of the fraternity of the famous. I used to envy Billy just because he was allowed inside the Yankee locker room; now he's their designated hitter. It looked like it was more fun than a barrel of strippers.

Maybe, instead of setting up a contract hit on him, I'll thank him– now I have 1002 reasons to never give up.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dom. It's What's For Breakfast.

Actors are represented by two different agents: commercial, who obviously handle auditions for commercials, and theatrical, who set up TV show and movie auditions. My commercial agency is decent, and the agent/person whom I deal with directly at that office is a very nice guy named Rich.

I just got an email from Rich, happily boasting that he had landed a great new job at an amazingly-respected agency called Brady, Brannon & Rich (BB&R.)

Good for him. But here's the part of the email that gave me a nipple hardon:

"The best news is I'm taking you with me. My last day here will be next Friday, March 21st. Then we'll both start at BB&R on the 24th."

And just like that, I am now represented by one of the top agencies in Hollywood. Today is a great day.

Rich, dinner is on me, ya mensch.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Two Guys, A Girl And A Video Clip.

If I were producing a music album, I wouldn't hire musicians that can just play notes; I'd want them to bring their personal styles to the songs and make them come alive.

The same applies to acting. Great actors truly craft their work. Kevin Spacey had a 45-minute monologue in a Broadway play called The Iceman Cometh, and every sentence had its own point of view. The audience was mesmerized.

And when it comes to comedy, one of the top guys on the planet is Ryan Reynolds. For several years he was hilarious on a show far too few people watched called "Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place." Watch the clip, and see how he's able to make an average sitcom scene– guy asks a woman out– a whole lot funnier.

If I can consistently bring this kind of work to my auditions, I'll be getting my butt outside the actor's studio apartment a whole lot more.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Step Away From The 'Forward Attachment' Button.

This is an ad recently placed in Variety by Corey Haim, and it's been liberally passed around the Internet and blasted by dozens of blogs.

Cut the guy a break.

It's customary to mock a celebrity whose status has cooled, but I'll tell you what– I'd kill to have the run that Corey had. The Lost Boys and License to Drive? Sign me up. These movies made millions and still run regularly on cable.

It cost $4800 to run this ad, and can you blame him? He's tasted real success, and loves acting. What would you suggest he do instead? Work at The Gap? No thanks. I've done it, and the craft service table there is marginal at best.

After I've been in 37 movies, feel free to poke fun of me all you want. Then again, I'll probably beat you all to it with a goofy blog entry about my ratty underwear.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Over A Million Actors Served.

The casting director for "CSI" recently told me that he casts about seven roles each episode for up to twenty episodes a year. For those 140 roles, actors send him over one million headshots. Since he's unable to sift through the horde and figure out who may be good or bad, he winds up tossing them all into a dumpster behind his office, and instead brings in actors he's met in casting workshops. Advantage: me.

When I'm not kicking back in the petite dog crate that is my home, I'm spending my nights and weekends at casting workshops. Every time a friend calls or texts me, I'm on my way to one, so I feel obligated to explain what they are.

At the beginning of every month, I'm emailed a calendar filled with casting directors from TV shows and movies, and I sign up for so many I'm contemplating having my gas bill forwarded to Hollywood and La Brea.

There are about twenty actors at each workshop, and we each hand a headshot to the casting director, who then pairs us up and gives us scenes, which we rehearse for ten minutes and then perform. There's a fee each time, and it's worth every penny– I get my face in front of the big decision makers in this town, and separate myself from the pack.

So next time you text me, picture me receiving it in my car, celly in one hand, Chicken Hot Pocket in the other, steering with my knees toward a TiVo near you.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Use My Powers For Evil.

My craft is your crutch. Presenting a simple course in how to lie.

In a word: specificity.

Calling in sick? First create in your mind a very real history. Were you up all night? What are your symptoms? What did the doctor prescribe? The more details, the more believable mannerisms and tone. Got it? Now make that call– the Yanks are playing a matinee.

Went out with the boys, but told your wife you had to work late? Again, apply Matt's Method®. But if you come home covered in stripper glitter, you're on your own.

Cop pull you over? Try specificity with a generous helping of embarassment: "Officer I know I was doing 78 in a 40, but I just t0tally sharted myself." No traffic school for you, chico.

Thus ends today's lesson. Get out there and perjure yourself.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Handy Guide To Pimpin'.

I realized today how I'll know when I've really made it big: when I'll eat Doritos, and get to the bottom of the bag, I'll just throw it away instead of dumping the crumbs into my mouth.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

On Behalf Of All Men, I Was Going To Thank Her.

Alas, it would have been terrific to relive puberty.

I had to miss my audition class on Monday and planned on making it up today, in a different class at the acting studio. Out of curiosity, I had checked today's class roster, and saw that Catherine Bach was a student.

Then I found out yesterday that I unfortunately wouldn't be able to attend the makeup today. So Daisy Duke and I were not able to share a moment.

Catherine Bach is one of many actors who, even after having a role on a hit show, understand the importance of knowing how to audition. While auditioning is essentially a form of acting, it doesn't quite require the same skill set. Auditioning for a guest role on a TV show is more difficult than being a regular on that show, because regulars know their characters well after playing them for some time, and don't need to create characters the way guest stars do. Some really great actors may struggle with auditions, much the same way some great students struggle taking the SAT.

Sucks I wasn't able to meet Catherine. Just to cheer myself up, I slid across the hood of my car before running some 'shine into the next county.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Does This Blog Make My Butt Look Big?

Join me, as I tap into my female side.

A friend of mine recently called, needing advice. He was about to propose to his girlfriend, and wanted an actor to teach him how to keep from crying when he got down on his knee.

"Why?" I asked. "Why suppress that real sentiment during one of the best moments of your life?"

We're all born with a range of emotions that are one-by-one eliminated because parents, teachers and society as a whole want us to "behave." In the beginning of our lives, we have glorious imagination; watch little kids play and you'll see how fully committed they are to whatever world they've dreamed up. Then revisit them in ten years, and this freedom will have vanished. And that's a shame.

Actors spend years trying to resuscitate their feelings, because the motion camera is a very intimate instrument that captures everything in a person's eyes and mannerisms. It's why a great performance can make you cry, and a lousy one just screams "acting." But beyond acting, the world would be happier and more well-adjusted if we all were just honest with our feelings.

The night after my friend asked me his proposal question, I got a text message from him. "I cried," he said. "She said yes anyway."

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Bob Redford Says "Hi."

Greetings from Sundance.

Wait a second– how can a starving actor afford to go to Sundance? Easy: he goes six weeks after the festival's closing ceremonies. I'm actually here skiing.

Wait a second– how can a starving actor afford to go skiing? Easy: he has a very generous older brother.

Andrew, I promise to someday make this up to you tenfold. I'm thinking a 150" Panasonic flat-screen.