Thursday, October 14, 2010

Some Wednesday

What a day. Rolled out of bed at 8:30. Didn't get back home until 3am. First a meeting to register with a temp agency. Then a meeting with a potential fourth roommate and their four-bedroom in Lefferts Garden. Then meeting with my original potential roommate to be drug around by the nose by a realtor who just didn't have what he'd claimed to have in his ads. Then an audition. Cancelled another apartment viewing. Then home for the first bite to eat since the bagel at 9am. Then out for yet another apartment viewing, this time with both my likely future roommates. Break for a burger at the Shake Shack. Then to Penn Station to pick up a French couchsurfer and get her to my place. Then finally change into formal clothes and go downtown for a job as an extra in a music video.

I'd gotten the call for the music video the night before, while I was with some friends at a pub trivia night in Williamsburg. A simple, non-union gig. three or four hours, starting 9pm, $50. I figured why not. I got an email the next day with the details. The artist was someone I'd never heard of (not surprising, given that it was only a $50 job), and the theme was "red carpet event," and we were supposed to dress accordingly.

I came down in a black suit, with sunglasses hanging from my pocket. At night. Karma decided that sunglasses at night was too pretentious, and would later make sure that they got stepped on before the shoot was over.

But before that, I called the background wrangler and told her I was running late, due to having to pick someone up from the train station. The shoot had been delayed one hour already anyway, so when I got there at 10:30, I hadn't actually missed much. In fact, all I'd missed was half an hour of my thirty-odd fellow extras standing on a ninth floor balcony sipping soda and munching trail mix.

We watched the artist singing. Well, lip-syncing, anyway. The music was a good, catchy R&B number. I pulled out my phone and decided to look this person up.

Turns out Chrisette Michele is a Grammy-award winning singer, signed by Def Jam Records. Shows what I know. Listening to conversations around us, it became pretty obvious that the white extras had no idea who she was, and that the black extras knew all about her.

I'd read a quote earlier that day from Alfred Hitchcock. It went something like "I never said actors were cows. I just said you should treat them like cows!" Hitchcock would have been proud. We were herded from location to location for three hours, without actually doing anything for the camera. Most of the time we were outside, and the lady extras in their red-carpet dresses were clearly freezing. I met some really interesting actors and got some great tips, but none of us were too happy by the time we were finally called upon to do something en masse for the camera around 1:30am. Still, we did it. So if you see Chrisette Michele's new music video sometime in the next couple of months, when it gets to the paparazzi scene, look for a guy on the left with a black suit and red shirt.

In the meantime, the auditions keep going, and they keep surprising me. I submit headshots and resumes for several things every day, and sometimes get invited in to an audition as a result. The two latest were from a theater with a nice flash website who were putting on a Christmas Carol, and something that listed almost no information except for the title "Something Outrageous" and a call for 20-something actors who will do something comedic in a bar. I figured the former would be a formal, reputable theater gig, and the latter a sketchy internet video.

I had it completely wrong. I showed up for the Christmas Carol audition, and found it was in a church basement in Brooklyn, near the expressway. Most people auditioning looked like they were fresh out of high school. I'd signed up for Fred, the Nephew, figuring it was the only age-appropriate part I could audition for. But by the time I got up there and heard the massive stutter on a fellow auditioning actor, I ended up reading for Scrooge as well.

I told the name of the theater company to some friends after, and they cringed. It was a community theater they'd seen a performance of before, and hadn't liked. Rumor has it they cast according to favorites, who they know, rather than what they see in the actors. Possibly this isn't that different from the big leagues?

I next went to the "Something Outrageous" audition. It was in a theater just off of Broadway, with a professional setup, and a producer currently working in LA. The guy running the auditions turned out to be the son of one of the original founders of Second City (a.k.a. the Compass Players at the time), and almost certainly had run into my father at some point in college. The show would rehearse in the daytime, three days a week, has two confirmed Saturday performances, and will likely extend.

At both auditions, women actors outnumbered men at least ten to one. Such is the industry, apparently.

I'll hear back from both within the next couple days. But now, I'm off to show my couchsurfer around town. More to come later...

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