Friday, July 8, 2011

Last Tango in Los Angeles: This Goofy Business.

Last Tango in Los Angeles: This Goofy Business.: " I have been lucky enough to have a whole flurry of auditions sent my way via my various agents the past week or so. ..."

This Goofy Business.

I have been lucky enough to have a whole flurry of auditions sent my way via my various agents the past week or so. Plus a couple that simply landed in my lap. And one producer called me in and just offered me the job (I particularly like those).

This ultra busy period started about two weeks ago. I had two back-to-back auditions down around the Culver City (Sony) area and I walked out of both in a bit of a huff. I don't usually do that. In fact, I'm fairly forgiving, I'd like to think, when it comes to auditions. But in both cases (and it was purely coincidental that they happened on the same day) I arrived (both were 'agent submissions' which, in effect, means you've been given an exact time to read) and was told I would have to wait a 'couple of hours' because they were running behind. Well, I have a long history of intolerance when it comes to this sort of thing; the idea, however unpremeditated, that 'your' time is more important than 'my' time. So in both cases I gave the monitor my pic and res and left, essentially saying 'a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an entire day of sitting in an uncomfortable chair in a lobby on my part.'

But then things took a turn for the better. A week or so ago I read for a new Sci-Fi movie set in the future after a military Armagedden of sorts. I read for the world-weary leader of a bunch of scrambling, amoral band of thieves. It was at a place I've auditioned before, a place I don't particularly like. This place just seems to suck the energy out of me. There are a bunch of rooms there, all rented out by various production companies, and one has to sit in the lobby area in the middle with dozens of other actors waiting to get in the door of the assorted projects being cast there. I like to think I'm fairly empathetic. And this lobby is just filled to the brim with a chaos-theory crashing of id, ego, insecurity and desperation. It unnerves me and consequently I don't ever recall having a good read there. But for whatever reason, this time I did. It was a fairly long scene, read with the PA, and they asked me to do it three separate times. The second time they asked me to read it 'like Michael Caine' complete with cockney accent. So I did. It turned out well and yesterday I got the callback notice through my agents.

A few days ago I ventured over to Pasadena for a short film. I walked into the room and the director had a tall stack of resumes in front of him. I took a seat so we might 'talk a little' about the role. Finally, he said, 'I know your work. No reason to read this. Would you like to do it?' I said, sure, and that was that. We start filming next week.

The business has changed enormously in the past five years, I'm told. Actors who are household names, who used to only accept 'offer only' meetings, now have to read and audition just like the rest of us poor schmucks. The jobs are getting scarce. Which bamboozles me because it seems to me there are about 500 channels now and one would think the exact opposite would be true. But it's not. The 'stars' have to get in the trenches and battle it out for parts just like the rest of us. And when I say, 'stars,' I don't mean people like Johnny Depp or Jennifer Anniston, of course. I mean people who have done a ton of work before, people easily recognizable by the average citizen, people with a buttload of TV and film stuff under their respective belts. I sincerely doubt Depp has to auditon for much anymore.

In any event, there are inevitably auditions that go well and others that don't. That's just the nature of the beast. Who can say why? And they can turn on a dime. The energy is just wrong sometimes. Or something in the room is not right, a feeling, a vibe, whatever. And the reading just falls flat and lifeless. And other times, again for no apparent reason, it all just clicks and everything feels right. It's a funny business.

Yesterday I had a singing audition. Went in, sang my little ditty, which went quite well, and then committed suicide on the read. Why? No idea. Just happened. Was the text bad? No. Was I unprepared? No. Was I too nervous? Not really. Who knows. It simply is.

And then there are the ones that are just weird. Couple of days ago I had a read in Hollywood. I got there at my appointed time and signed in and looked around. It appeared to me as though someone had posted an audition notice at the nearest drug and alcohol homeless shelter. There were four or five guys sitting around, approximately my age so we were all reading for the same part, waiting to be called in. They were running a tad behind so the actors were piling up. Which is common and no big deal. But as I looked around I began to wonder what in the name of Zeus was up. One guy, around sixty or so, had a dirty t-shirt on, some daisy duke shorts and flip flops. Another was wearing an ill-fitting suit and had no teeth. Another was trying desperately to chat up anyone who walked in the door. He had the entire script written in tiny scrawl on the back of a Chinese food menu and his pictures and resumes bound together with duct tape. He was wearing dirty shorts and some old tennis shoes with holes cut in the front of them so that his toes stuck out, sort of hand made sandals. Another guy, also in his sixties, was in a corner doing a sort of marching in place thing, trying to simulate riding a bicycle (which the scene required) and shouting, and I mean shouting, his lines. He was standing there doing this little aerobic thing and shouting his lines and then, in a squeeky, womanly voice, saying the other lines in the scene (which, frankly, I thought he did better than his own). At one point he turned around and saw me gaping. "What!" he said. I turned my head and bit the inside of my mouth.

The toothless guy came over to me at one point and asked if I'd like to read through the scene.

"Um, well, there's only one part."

"Yeah, well, you read the other part."

"No, thanks."

He glared at me and then sat beside me and said, "I never seen you before."

"No, probably not."

"Hm. Nope. Never seen you before." He kept glaring. Thankfully, they called me in right about then and I was spared his goofiness.

When I came out after my audition the door banged against the old man with the daisy dukes. He had been listening with his ear pressed against the door.

"Excuse me," I said as I opened the door.

He gave me a wild-eyed, crackhead stare and rubbed the side of his head where the door had popped him.

"That's not how I'm gonna do it," he said.

"No, I would imagine not," I said and scampered for the exit. As I passed the shouting man he began slamming his head against the wall and saying under his breath, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no..."

It all reminded me of a story my former acting teacher, Michael Moriarty, once told me about working with Robert DeNiro. They were doing a film called 'Bang the Drum Slowly' and there is a scene in which the terminally ill character DeNiro was playing had to vomit in a bathroom stall. Michael was watching off-camera. Before every take, and there were 10 or 12, DeNiro would take an iced tea spoon, one of those inordinantly long ones, and jam it into the back of his throat thus causing his gag reflexes to activate. He was trying, obviously, to make it completely real. Michael told me that as he stood and watched he said to himself, "You know, I'm just not that serious about all this."

So I finally made good my getaway. I told Angie later, 'This was agent submission only. WHO REPRESENTS THOSE GUYS?!"

All in all, however, I really can't complain. This business is a numbers ggame; 100 people see you, 5 or 6 like you. Simple as that. Most of the time it has nothing to do with how 'good' you are. You're either what they want or not. And that's it. That's the long and short of it. No reason to get your panties in a bunch. It's not personal. You're just not the guy.

Once one learns that indifferent truth about auditions, it's all just another day at the ball field.

See you tomorrow.