Friday, July 22, 2011

A Look Back

Silly business, this business I'm in. Interesting, passionate, funny, sometimes hysterical, noble, self-rightous at times, far too serious at others, but always bordering on the silly.

I'm going in today to read for the producers of a new feature film, a thing about corrupt police officers, which is a subject close to my heart because I've always believed all police officers are corrupt to some degree, if only in their desire to be a police officer in the first place...power corrupts, etc. This is the call back. It's a small role, to be honest. In fact, so small my character doesn't even have a name. The role is that of the 'Bald Detective.'

My buddy, RD Call, told me ahwile back, "Never take a role that doesn't have a name." Hm. Well, he may be right. But sometimes you gotta go where the money is. The brutal truth is, you can make more money saying three lines as 'The Bald Detective' than you can playing Othello, Lear, Hamlet and Richard on tour for a year. Just the way it is. Big sigh.

Ostensibly, this blog was started to document my trip through showbiz and its myriad hurdles and oddities and opportunites in the City of Angels. And most of the time, I stick to that general premise. Although, now and again I use it to muse on other things, too. Someday, in a perfect world, I'll finish my journey and scrape together the blogs about my humble (humble? Hell, nearly invisible) start and end with something that will justify my geographical move out here. In a perfect world. We'll see. If, indeed, that happens in some way, shape or form, I'll try and gather them all together in book form and publish it as a literary documentary of sorts, a trial and error report of just how it happened, a 'buyer beware' chronicle of my trek, a personal 'this is what happened to me' narrative.

When I first started my little 'hamster in a wheel' journey out here, I couldn't get arrested, much less land a part. I endured a weird and anxiety-ridden stint with one of those 'pay to act' companies over in NoHo, ending badly, but my goals were accomplished nonetheless, that is to say, I got representation out of the whole sordid business. But the entire incident left a bad taste in my mouth, the hucksters running the joint, the fact that someone else made a lot of money off of my writing while I didn't make a penny, and I mean that literally, not one penny, the whole idea of luring young, idealistic young actors and actresses into a theatre company, charging them money to be there, and then never actually letting them perform, but rather use them to paint sets...well, it all bothered me, from a moral standpoint, very much. Fortunately, as time passed, I realized that experience was the exception, not the rule.

And to be fair, I'm sure I could have handled the experience with more diplomacy than I did.

But then things got a little better. My newly acquired agent began working his tail off for me and other ventures presented themselves in due time. And even though I didn't land a lot of the gigs I was sent out for, I got to know the casting directors...VERY important in this silly business. And casting directors, I've learned, at least most of them, have long memories. They should because that's their job. And even though an actor might not sign for the gig he's auditioning for, there's a better than average chance, if he's any good, he'll be rememebered for a future gig that he IS right for. That's how it works.

And as time passed, things continued to get better. I realized in this town, much more so than, say, Chicago or New York (two other towns in which I spent a lot of time) it's WHO you know, not how GOOD you are. Which, taken at face value, can be a little disconcerting, but once I grasped the reality of it, I adapted quickly and set out to play that game. It's really just human nature and not all that mysterious, really. People would rather hire and work with people they know. It's that simple. It's not nearly as nefarious and nepotistic as one might think. It's just a natural impulse. So the whole idea of becoming 'better' at what one does is not nearly so important as 'being seen' by the people who make the decisions about what one does. Eh?

The other odd thing that happened, in terms of my work as a writer, is the stuff that came my way because of the few things I've managed to get mounted here in LA. Strangely, although none of my writing gives any indication of this, I've been sought out to write scripts based on OTHER PEOPLE'S stories. Hm. Again, not what I foresaw but welcome nontheless. And it's given me the peace of mind to pay the rent, the bills, and feed my family. And for that alone, I'm intensely grateful, if not a little surprised. And thankfully, those gigs are all paying off in spades.

My wife, who's been in this LA industry stuff for a long time, so long in fact, she's somewhat gun shy of it all, told me from the outset, "You have to be patient, you have to let them get to know you, it'll all happen, just not overnight." And of course, she's once again proven to be right. I don't like 'waiting for things to happen,' though. I'd prefer to have it happen overnight. A character flaw, to be sure.

Of course the residual effect of all this has been that I've made a lot of new friends. People whom I respect, who do the good work and fight the good fight, people who have somehow managed to remain not only sane but downright noble in the midst of this ridiculous business. And I was surprised, although I'm not sure why I should have been. I guess I became so jaded and cynical and wary after my first dealings with that small theatre company across town, I just assumed everyone in LA was of the same ilk. Not true. Thank goodness, not true. There are good souls and bad souls everywhere, in every business, not just this one. It's a truism I should have expected but for some reason didn't. My natural, knee jerk, reaction to bullshit was on high alert. I'm sorry for that now, not because it hurt my burgeoning career, but because it placed me in a very negative space for a long time, needlessly so as it turns out.

All in all, I can't complain. Things are exactly where they should be ("And whether you realize it or not, the universe is unfolding exactly as it should"). I have a really terrific couple of agents for theatre and commercials, and the best manager in the world for TV and Film. I have two very exciting writing projects seconds away from being launched. I'm reading, daily, regularly, for major film and TV stuff. I may not be landing them yet, but I will, I will. I went in for a network commercial the other day and the casting director said, "Ah, yes, I've heard about you. Great to finally meet." Huh?

I'm coming up on my two year anniversary in this town. And, to be fair, only a year of that counts because I didn't have any representation before that, and without representation an actor is just another fleeting face drifting through the sickly sweet aroma of ambition and dreams in this town. It's been a great ride so far; funny, noble, scary, instructional...some of the bumps in the road have been kind of ugly, others just mere bumps and others still, a buttload of bumpy fun.

As Mr. Sondheim says so eloquently, 'Move on. Stop worrying where you're going, move on. If you can know where you're going, you've gone."

Give me more to see.

See you tomorrow.