Thursday, July 15, 2010

Working with Ingmar Bergman...

One of nearly two hundred pictures taken yesterday in the tack room...

A whirlwind of activity in the past few days.  On Tuesday I met with my new commercial agent, Joan Messinger, a veteran agent here in Los Angeles and a very nice person to boot.  She's an old friend of Angie's and came to see the show last week.  I think she liked it very much.  So Tuesday morning I met with her for an hour or so to figure out what next on the commercial agenda for me.  This is a whole new ballgame for me, this commercial business.  But it's something great, in the overall scheme of things, and hopefully we can be mutually beneficial to one another.

At the meeting all I had to take in was my one resume shot and my resume itself.  She already knew I could act, having seen the show and all, but, as she and her partner, Kim, pointed out, that's not terribly important in the commercial industry.  She pointed out, patiently and kindly, the pros and cons of my foray into this new and unknown aspect of the entertainment business for me.  The bad part is I'm not SAG yet and some commercial people probably won't see me because of that.  The good part is I'm a forty nine year old new face with acting chops.

So the first thing, she said, was to get pictures.  So I met with a photographer yesterday for a few hours and took about 180 shots of myself in about ten different outfits.  And still not done.  I can only take shots with my goatee because I have to keep that for one more week of Praying Small.  Once the show is closed, I grow a full beard, take some more shots in more outfits then shave it off and take some more shots in still more outfits.  It's the vanity part of the business that I've always been uncomfortable with, frankly.  Other actors, I know, love this aspect.  They love the new pics, the new "looks."  For me, it's simply a means to an end.   I do have to admit there's a certain fascination with the the self-indulgent idea of taking hundreds of pictures of myself and then pouring over them all to find the ones that "fit."  But it's a fleeting fascination and quickly bores me.  Nonetheless, after taking all the shots yesterday, Angie and I dutifully sat at the computer and picked and discarded pictures for several hours.  After a bit, like a kid with a new toy, I simply got up and did other things while Angie stayed with the photos and made choices.  One of them is featured above.  I like to think of that one as my "educated NYPD guy with two kids in college, who is fresh on the scent of a brutal serial killer terrorizing NYC"  That's how I amused myself throughout the tedious process of staring at my face for hours...making up names for the different looks.

So we had fun picking out all of the different "looks" and then playing dress-up for the photographer.  He came to the house and we had to find a perfect place with a perfect backdrop with the perfect lighting.  We tried a lot of different spots.  Finally, and I found this amusing, we found the ideal spot: in the tack room in the backyard next to the horse stalls.  Now, yesterday it was about a hundred degrees here in LA.  The tack room was about a hundred and ten.  So I had to have a towel handy to wipe my face after every few shots because I was sweating like a whore in church.  We'd take some shots and then I'd change into the next "look" and go back out to the tack room and start again.  We were sitting in front of a bunch of bales of hay so they had to be photo-shopped out.  As a friend of mine said to me many, many years ago when I was standing in the middle of a crowded mall singing "Try To Remember," wanna be an actor?

The whole process at this point is kinda new and exciting, actually.  Kind of like playing "dress up" as a kid.

Anyway, once the hundreds of shots are done, some with a beard, some clean-shaven, some with a goatee, dozens of "looks," I'll take the best seventy-five or so and have them printed out on four by six, glossy cards, take them into Joan and her partner Kim, then they spread them all out on a table and select, apparently, the best eight or ten shots and start sending me out on auditions.

Now, actually DOING commercials is not new to me.  Over the years I've done a few.  Most of them local spots where I was hired while doing a play in that area.  The most lucrative was a Pizza Hut spot I did in NYC a long time ago with a director who thought he was Ingmar Bergman.  All I had to do was take a bite of pizza, look at the camera, and say, "WOW!"  Cut.  That's it.  Apparently, my "WOW" left something to be desired.  This guy, I've long forgotten his name, would pull me aside and whisper direction to me as though I were about to take another swing at Hamlet's "Rogue and Peasant Slave" soliloquy.  He would give me images to consider as I wended my way up to the emotional explosion of "WOW."

"Remember, Clif, the first time you laid eyes on the lover of your dreams..."  Or, "Try and think of the first time you saw a shooting star."  I particularly liked that one. Or, "It's as if everything you ever dreamed of suddenly came true all in an instant."  This was clearly a great, fucking pizza.

After a few takes, the cynical and never far from the surface, part of me came out.  The director said "Action," the camera rolled, I took the small bite of pizza, looked straight at the camera and said, "WELL, FUCK ME!"  All the guys on the set start laughing, the director...not so much.

At any rate, you can see, Gentle Reader, my amusement regarding commercial work.

I was told the other day, on a different note, to be careful what I wrote in this blog because my honesty would  come back someday and "bite me."  Well, I've thought about that a great deal over the past couple of days.  I've decided to ignore that advice.  I started this little blog to write and record exactly what it was like to start out as an unknown actor/playwright in the new city of Los Angeles.  That is my goal and my sincere desire.  I want to record my frustrations and triumphs, my disappointments and successes, my awe and humor while exploring this whacky business.  It's not meant to be mean spirited, but at times, I have let my temper do the writing for me.  So be it.  If I only write about how wonderful everything is, how incredible everyone is, well, that would be just a big lie.  And what's the point in that?  It would be like Sammy Davis Jr. writing a blog.

Not gonna do that.

So, tonight, and I blush a bit to confess this, I've been hired to do a few lines on the reality show, "Gene Simmons and The Family Jewels."  Silly show.  Angie loves it.  Apparently, Gene is going to a 'sleep disorder' clinic and I will have a quick scene with him in the waiting room.  All "adlib," as the casting lady told me.  This should be interesting.  And, of course, I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Also, I have a few short films coming up.  This is something I've decided to do in order to get a "reel."  Very important, this "reel," I'm told.  I don't have a reel.  I don't even have a rod.

So Saturday I've got two auditions for short films.  I've already had a couple of these.  I guess I didn't get them because I haven't heard anything yet.  But, as Angie and my new agents, Joan and Kim, tell me, "It's a numbers game.  Just keep showing up and eventually something will land."  So I'll keep showing up.  It's not like I have a choice, you know.  Either that or go and sit everyday, all day, at Schwabb's Drugstore and hope for the best.

Today I'm working on getting Praying Small in a format known as 'Final Draft,' which is the accepted way to send a new play out to someone.  This one is going to Sam French, the top dog in the play publishing business.  Praying Small has been flopping around for several years now, garnering amazing notices, getting tremendous critical acclaim and now it's time to get it published.  I've not been terribly ambitious about my writing throughout the years, but it's time to get over that.  If I don't start acting as a cheerleader for my own work, God knows no one else will.

Beautiful day in Los Angeles, as usual.  The temperature is climbing already and another 100 degree day is expected.  Angie and I are debating whether to start the AC...we keep changing our minds about it.  Ah, life in the suburbs.

See you tomorrow.