Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Partial Credit

It's been nearly a month, and I'm doing pretty well in New York City. Sort of.

I'm acting. Sort of. And living in Manhattan. Sort of. I'm gainfully employed. Sort of. I might even be on the way to a book deal. Sort of.

I think we may see a pattern here.

Filming today was an experience. It was a student gig. Everybody looked, talked, and acted like students. Because they are students. It's been two years since I graduated, and it feels very strange to be a) among students, and b) not feel like I'm one of them. While the two guys holding boom mics were making fun of each other and the cameraman focused on me was getting tips from a professor, we could clearly hear the lines of the exact scene we were doing being delivered in the studio next door by a different set of actors, directed by a someone in the same class as our director.

"Why is that door open? Should somebody close that door?" Said one of the other camera students "I don't know if we need to tell somebody if there is a reason, because we can clearly hear the other actors in the--" he was cut off by one of the boom mic students putting down his boom, walking over and closing the door himself. "...oh." he said.

As for me, acting on camera was weird, but fun. It took a couple takes to settle into it. I'm used to projecting everything for an audience, performing. I had to be told to turn it all down a bit. The Camera and Microphone are much more sensitive and aware than a live audience. So I turned it down.

By the second of four planned takes. I recognized what I was doing. It had a name I liked to call it when I saw it in B movies. It was called Bad Acting.

So I made a subtle change, slowly bringing back the energy and intensity, but focusing it on detail and being rather than performing, if that makes sense. It was like drawing a straight line on a chalkboard instead of carving it into stone. I don't know how it came out, but it sure felt better, and my directing student seemed pleased.

Now for living in Manhattan. I'm subletting a one-bedroom in East Harlem. Regular rent is $1075, which thanks to a generous offer from a friend, I'm paying for a month and a half worth of living there. I might be paying a bit more in electric bills since I just today switched to an electricity provider that uses 100% renewable resources (mostly wind power in NY state)*, but it ends Oct 15th. Because it ends October 15th, I haven't really bothered to furnish the place.

The result is a very spare and slightly overheated one bedroom apartment consisting of a bookcase or three, a desk for my laptop, a card table and chairs, and a leaky twin size air mattress. Just today I picked up a slatted frame for the bed that had been tossed outside my apartment onto some trash bags. Before that, my mattress had been on the floor. Since the mattress has to be re-inflated every few hours, I'll find out soon whether the slats are actually more comfortable to sleep on than the floor.

Once the sublease ends, I have a few options: stay and become the official tenant for a year, try to negotiate a month-to-month lease, sign a lease elsewhere, or sublet/look for temporary housing elsewhere.

I do like being in Manhattan, on principle. But the neighborhood... well, this may be the city that doesn't sleep, but around here everything except for a fried chicken joint and a corner store seems to shut down at 8pm because of safety concerns. It's more safe than you'd guess from that. As a 6 foot tall guy who knows where he's going, I don't feel threatened, but there is a certain amount of bullet proof glass around. So far the only things that make me want to stay are volunteer opportunities (which I'm sure I can find elsewhere in town) and the fact that there's a Costco/Target/Best Buy shopping center about five blocks away. Honestly, I don't feel like saying I chose the New York  neighborhood I live in because of how easily I can get to Target.

So I'm looking for a new place. But looking for a new place means knowing how much you can afford. And right now, that's a little complicated.

Like I said, I've got a day job. Two, actually. Sort of. I've been hired as a private tutor, and the pay rate is phenomenal. I've also got a job as a mover. The pay is... less phenomenal. But it does come with tips, lets me see parts of the city I wouldn't ordinarily see, and might have the perk of free furniture from things people want to get rid of.

But I don't get paid for either job if I don't work. And I don't work if nobody calls in asking my bosses for movers or tutors. So far, in my time here, I've had one day of work moving. I have had zilch tutoring.

So, in theory, I could be living comfortably off in a nice place of my own in Williamsburg, or maybe even a small place in the village. But in practice... I have no realistic idea of what I can afford to rent, because I can't predict what my income is going to be.

So. Sort of acting, sort of living in Manhattan, sort of employed.

Oh yeah. Book deal in progress. Sort of.

I wrote a query letter (a letter to literary agents and publishers explaining your idea for a book you'd write) about a book about my travel. I shopped it around a bit asking for proofreading and tips on how to improve it, and through one channel or another, it came to the attention of someone at Harper Collins. She now wants to read my book proposal (a formal 15+ page document with the marketing details and sample chapters of said book). I doubt she'll get me a book deal herself, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. I'm hammering out the draft now, reading a book I pulled from the New York Public Library on how to write one of these things. It's taking a long time.

Maybe that's because I get distracted into doing things like blogging at 2:30am. When I really should be going to sleep on my air mattress and recovering from the cold I came down with last week.

I think I'll go do that now.

*New York State deregulated electricity providers about years ago, so you can choose your provider. Green Mountain Energy is one of those options, and if you're a New York City resident with a ConEdison electric bill, you can switch to these guys to use 100% renewable energy for about $5 more per month, depending on your electricity usage.


  1. Is the book on book proposals Nonfiction book proposals anybody can write, by Elizabeth Lyon? If not, get it. Best book out there, very clear, and in good order.

    Furniture? You need furniture? You have three bookcases.

  2. Yes, that's the one I'm reading. I thought I'd picked it out at random, too. Glad to see the endorsement.

    And yes, I still stand by my statement. I need furniture. Three bookcases is not enough bookcases.