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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

From Soirée to Soirée

by admin

Things have slowed down a bit for the holidays…well, except for all the holiday parties, of course. There were several going-away parties for one of the talent agents in town (my colleague of six years!), a screening of a film by one of my favorite local directors, Happy Hour over at one of the modeling agencies, dinner with a few clients, a baby shower for an acting coach friend, drinks with about a half dozen actor buddies, opening night of a musical, two cast parties, a wrap party for the feature we recently cast, a couple production company shindigs and, of course, our holiday party on the 14th. And that’s not even counting Thanksgiving week!

We had meetings with a client about a major national campaign coming up; dates keep shifting, but we’re on the ready. Also got some nibbles about a print job for a computer company, a VO casting, and a project for a well-known search engine company. Hope to get those rolling before the Christmas holiday hits.

I got to meet Jack Klugman last week when he was in town for his book tour. He’s like 82 years old and can still enthrall a crowd! We spoke afterwards about the fundraiser I was working on this summer that got cancelled (he was the soon-to-be revealed Hollywood icon we had booked to perform). He still wants to do it, so perhaps we’ll revive the project.

This week, I’ve got another holiday party and a show to attend. Other than that, I’m hoping to lay low. Enough is enough!

Friday, November 4, 2005

Quick Drive-By

by admin

Well, clearly I’m lame at this. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

A month already? What has been taking up all my time? A few nationals, a feature, a handful of other gigs. I think I have about seven open projects on my desk. A few shows to attend, some general auditions, meetings for the theatre company I serve on the board of.

Meetings. Tons of meetings. In the past week, I’ve met with our new regional SAG director, a bookkeeper, an events coordinator, some new clients about to launch a major campaign, a caterer, a tax planner and on and on. I was even supposed to go on the set of one of the films we cast recently to be interviewed by one of the TV stations, but that got postponed. Whew.

Phone calls. Lots of phone calls. I’m organizing our annual shindig, so rounding up lighting and sound equipment, bands, food and drink, decorations, etc. Sending invites out to our client/VIP list and trying not to forget anyone. It’s that time of year: Just about every production company throws a holiday party of some kind or another during this season. It starts around Halloween and continues until the New Year, with several on the calendar each week. Ack. In fact, there were two tonight that I skipped. The annual advertising awards and an after party. Couldn’t deal with it.

My online course. I have an active group of students this month, keeping me very busy on the message boards. I spent an hour or two this morning answering questions, starting at about 7:00 am. Worked from 9:00 am until 10:00 pm on the party and our casting gigs, then came home to another hour of questions tonight. And then what do I do? Start posting here. Must be crazy. But my students are great! A couple of them in one of the sections are parents of actors who actually have quite a bit of experience under their belts. They’re able to share what they’ve learned about the business with the other students, and have got some great stories.

I’ve got a lot coming up in the next few weeks. Plans almost every night. Only a week left to make last-minute preparations for the party. New jobs coming in. It may be a while before I make another appearance here…. 😐 I apologize in advance.

L.

Friday, October 7, 2005

Congrats to the Co-Star!

by admin

Time for another update!

On Friday, Sept 22nd, we hosted a meet-and-greet with an acting coach at our casting studios. She studied with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse and Uta Hagen at HB Studio, then worked for about 16 years a casting director in New York and LA. It was great fun to socialize with actors that I usually only get to see in casting sessions.

Last week, we started prepping and casting a SAG Modified feature, a plasma TV spot and another Lottery commercial, while also taking care of bookings on the MOW. In all, we booked about half of the MOW roles locally (all the day players, of course, plus one of the co-stars). We just got word this week about the co-star role, so that was exciting for the actress who landed it. They were holding off until they’d cast the actor who was to play her husband, to make sure it was a good match. Once we got word that he was confirmed, we knew she was in. She’ll work eight days and get a nice screen credit. Kudos!!

This past weekend was busy with the screening of a film that shot here, a theatre company fundraiser and the going away party of a local comedian. Tonight, I’m taking a talent agent out for a late birthday celebration. In fact, I should get going, since our reservations are for 7:45! I’ll have to finish catching up later.

Ciao!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

WOW. M.O.W.

by admin

Ack. Sorry about the cobwebs.

I got back from France on September 14th. It was great to see friends and family, but I ended up working a lot of the time I was there. 😐
I am afraid to find out what my next cell phone bill is going to be, with all that international roaming. Yikes.

During the week before I left for my trip, we did the VO casting for the Lottery and callbacks on one of the healthcare spots we were working on. The fundraiser for the new theatre company on August 25th was a success: well attended with some great performances, wonderful food and a lively auction.

I finished off the last week of August with a play on Friday, a housewarming party for two friends who work in public broadcasting on Saturday, and a meeting with a director and three producers on Sunday, regarding a feature we may be casting.

I was all set for two relaxing weeks in France, when we got a call on the Friday before I was to leave from one of the biggest ad agencies in the world, wanting us to cast a national campaign for them. My assistant and other staff agreed to take it on, so I arranged to be available by phone or email, if they needed me. With the time difference, however, most of the calls from the office came at about the time I had enjoyed a glass of wine or two with dinner [hiccup!], so I don’t know how helpful I was….

But they pulled it off without a hitch, even when client came back a week later and wanted to do callbacks via teleconference, with the director in New York, directing the actors through a TV screen. Then my staff had to do another complicated casting while I was gone: an outdoor casting for Nike, with extension cords, equipment on dollies, etc. We couldn’t get easy jobs while I was away, could we?

Next, we got a call about a movie-of-the-week (MOW) for Hallmark Hall of Fame and at this point, I just threw my hands in the air. After several scratchy long-distance phone conversations on my cell phone and running around trying to find someplace in the south of France where I could get a wireless Internet connection for my laptop, we got the ball rolling and arranged for the producer, director and LA casting director to come to my office this week for three days of sessions, jetlag and all. I flew back on the 14th, working on the schedule in every train station and airport where I could find an outlet and a wireless network, and another few hours on the plane, until my battery died. I was awake for over 48 hours by the time I got home and had to get up early the next morning to finish up and get schedules out to the agencies.

No time to collapse, though. We’re casting about 30 roles and have had to throw everything together very quickly. Just finished our first sessions and production left happy. Looks like we’ll still have a bit of casting to do, but I think we nailed most of it.

On Tuesday night, I took the LA casting director to a screening of Thumbsucker. A very odd flick, but I ended up engaged in the story. I knew several of the actors in it and thought they did a great job.

This evening, I’m meeting with a director and producer regarding a feature they want us to cast very shortly. It might overlap a bit with the Hallmark project and the other feature I had a meeting about prior to my trip, but I’m going to investigate.

Maybe in my next post, I’ll write a bit about the casting sessions for the MOW. For now, however, I am signing off. A plus tard!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Casting, Comedy and Postcards from the Edge

by admin

The Scoop has been sorely neglected. Apologies to my faithful readers. 🙁

The good news is that it’s because we’ve been casting a lot.

On Monday the 8th, I met with a producer and director from LA who are shooting a feature in town in the upcoming weeks. Then we headed into casting for several national healthcare spots. I still managed to get out on the 11th to see a fine production of anonymous playwright Jane Martin‘s “Talking With.” It’s a fantastic play and it was great to see such a solid cast and tight direction. (To hear an NPR interview on the mysterious Jane Martin, click here for the Real Audio file.).

On the 12th, I went to dinner with one of our local politicians, where we discussed everything from film legislation to plays we’d acted in in high school. Ah yes, it turns out our illustrious policy maker has a bit of thespian blood in him! Too fun!

Over the weekend of the 13th, I attended the citywide theatre auditions here in town. Lower turn-out this time around than in February, but we saw a few new people. Got to meet with a former Broadway actor over lunch while I was there. He is the artistic director of a new theatre company in town and politically active like myself. I’ve accepted to be on the advisory board of his company and am helping round up auction items for his fundraiser next Thursday. He’s producing Urinetown in the fall, which should be awesome! Can’t wait!

This past week, we had casting sessions every day and had to prep new sessions at the same time: Finished up on the healthcare spots, did a new one for some kind of new cookware product and started on Lottery casting.

I had evening events every night, too, so sleep was a rare occurance. Monday and Wednesday, we had the directing class at the studio. Tuesday, I met with an actress/dancer friend of mine for drinkies. 😉

Thursday, I hosted yet another fundraiser at my studio; this one put on by a filmmaker friend of mine for the women of the Democratic Republic of Congo who are suffering from the effects of genocide, gang rape and high infant mortality. It will provide food, education, psychological counseling, business training and micro-loans to Congolese women through Women for Women International, a fantastic organization. Read up on what is happening in the Congo!!! It is beyond belief and it is happening RIGHT NOW. These women and their families have no hope. We should do whatever we can to help these desperate people. I plan to sponsor a few women myself and encourage you to do the same. This is a cause that makes all other causes seem petty.

Now, to change gears completely, my week ended with a night of sketch comedy last night. I saw four troupes: Ten West from Los Angeles (brilliant!), the all-female Meat from New York (too fun!), the very original Elephant Larry, also from NYC (and whom I met in Chicago in January), and the über-talented Hoskins and Breen from Portland. Afterwards, I followed the comedians over to the local karaoke joint for a few more laughs.

I’ve got three shows I really should see this weekend, as they are all closing, but I’m not sure how much time I will have to go to the theatre. I’m leaving for France in a week and a half and there’s so much to get done first! Ack!

More to follow….

Friday, August 5, 2005

To Volunteer is to Empower

by admin

Me again.

Since my last post, things have been sailing rather smoothly. We interviewed several audio-visual interns that we met through the Art Institute and have had a few come by to help us run casting sessions and figure out other technical stuff for us. It was getting so that you needed four hands to run all the equipment in the casting room, so this is a big help.

A bunch of free time has opened up, as the fundraiser I was working on recently came to a screeching halt. Several major issues arose that made it impossible to continue, but we hope to bring the project back sometime in the not-too-distant future. [Watch this space]

I was glad it hasn’t been too crazy lately, because we’ve been juggling several projects…including a voice-over casting for a cable TV company and some videos for a major sportswear firm, plus booking the talent on that British series we cast a week or so ago. We’re also in the process of locating an alternagirl host for a late-night TV program. Good fun all around!

On Thursday, I snuck out early and hopped on a plane for San Francisco, where I spent the weekend with my friends Allyson and Rosalie, whom I met in Dharamsala, India several years ago. They were volunteering for the Tibetan Women’s Association at the time and I ended up doing some fascinating work while I was there, too (thanks to them): I got to interview 25 Tibetan Buddhist nuns who had escaped from Chinese-occupied Tibet about their experiences. It was heartbreaking, but fascinating work.

Rosalie is living in Calcutta now and has started a non-profit for poor children called Empower the Children there, which is doing great. She is feeding and educating 1300 kids from the slums every day!! Incredible. I may have to make a trip over sometime and see what I can do to help. Hmm…maybe arrange a fundraiser here and then deliver some humanitarian aid? See, I get myself into these things, don’t I? But I can’t help it.

This week has been more about meetings and networking than casting, per se. Yesterday, I met with an acting coach for whom we are going to do an open house in the next month or so. Afterwards, I went with a member of the drama critics committee to see a production of “Omnium Gatherum,” a play that debuted at the prestigious Humana Festival in 2003. An energetic cast and a successful production overall, despite the troubles they apparently had in getting the show up and running. Good job, Willie!

Tonight, more networking at a happy hour for progressives; tomorrow is a garden party at the home of an actress I know; Sunday is a board meeting to discuss the abovementioned cancelled fundraiser, followed by dinner with a few more of my Indophile friends. Monday, I’m hosting a directing workshop at our studios. After that, maybe I’ll find a few minutes to come back and post.

Until then, adieu!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Don’t scold me; I’m swamped.

by admin

I’ve been painfully absent from here. My bad.

That’s what I get for agreeing to work on another fundraiser, while the casting biz is running at full throttle. Add to that a few out-of-town guests, some travel and several family obligations, and there’s no time for anything.

The fundraiser is coming along, though. We’re about to send out press releases and have spoken with various television and radio stations to arrange interviews with our celebrity guest. Today, I got the venue, food and entertainment for the VIP reception lined up. I’m still looking for a stage manager, a house manager and a volunteer coordinator, plus wine and beer donations, a pianist, lighting equipment and random other things, but it’s starting to look like a bona fide event.

On the casting front, one of the jobs we’re working on is a television program for several British cable channels (no, it’s not The Biggest Loser). Had a good time reading actors today, since the characters were a hoot. I think we saw some great talent; we’ll see what our client in London says.

We’re still waiting to get selects back from another big client on the last job we did; callbacks got pushed because the scripts keep getting changed. Unfortunately, this made most of the actors assume that they hadn’t gotten called back, but they’re still in consideration! We just don’t know when callbacks are going to be. We tried to get the word out to them via their agents to hang tight. Don’t give up, folks. There’s still hope!

This weekend, we’ve set up a casting for an independent film that needs a five-year-old actress. We’re looking for a girl who looks like the woman who plays her as an adult. That role has already been cast, so now we’re just trying to find a match. I’m curious to see how it turns out.

Tonight, I went to see a showcase of actors graduating from the acting conservatory here. Each actor performed two monologues and I felt overall that they made great choices; all of them going for roles they’d be likely to get cast in in real life. Very refreshing. Had a nice talk with several of them afterwards about the local industry and told them to keep us apprised of their shows and whereabouts.

My online course is also running at full throttle. One of my current students is a very energetic, driven actress who also happens to be deaf. I had the opportunity to meet and watch her audition recently (quite by accident!) and was very impressed. She’ll find more work than a lot of actors I know who wait around for something to happen, because she’s out there creating her own opportunities. Kudos!

I have lots more to tell, but no more energy to keep writing tonight. I’ll try to post another update soon.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Has it been sunny out? Really?

by admin

It’s hard to keep up these days. It seems like there is so much going on!

Since I last checked in, I’ve started working on yet another fundraiser. We’ll be bringing in a soon-to-be-revealed Hollywood icon to town to perform a staged reading at the end of August. I’ve been helping nail down venues for the reading and VIP receptions, plus the additional talent and stage crew that will be needed.

On the 24th, I attended the bachelorette party(!) of a local comedienne. On the 25th, several theatre professionals and I met with the artistic director of a new theatre company to strategize (i.e., his way of luring us in and asking us to be on the board of directors!). I’m not sure I was the most alert one present, after staying up a bit late the night before, but I think I agreed to be on the advisory board….! 😮

That evening, I attended a theatre production that my assistant was in (her swan song, as she’s now come on full-time at our offices!). The next day, I was off to Seattle for three days for the Theatre Puget Sound general auditions. I saw about 200-250 actors and came home with a stack of headshots for our files, while she held down the fort and helped prep a job for the 30th.

I got back from Seattle last Wednesday, just in time to change clothes and head to the theatre to see an enjoyable production of “Take Me Out”, the Tony Award-winning play by Joe Mantello. Went out afterwards for drinks with several of the cast members and had a blast getting to know the actors I hadn’t met before.

The next morning, I got up at 6:00 am to prep a job for the 6th, headed into the office to cast the job that my assistant had prepped while I was out of town, then raced to a meeting with a director/acting coach who is going to teach a workshop in our studio. From there, the two of us attended one of the final performances of a production of “Lie of the Mind” by Sam Shepard. Got home about midnight, I think.

Oy! I’m getting exhausted just thinking about all this!

Next was the 4th of July holiday. I had planned to head out of town for a couple days to be with family, but naturally, we got a last minute phone call on Friday night from a client asking if we could do a casting first thing Tuesday the 5th. Arrrrrrrrgh! Most of the talent agents had already left for the long weekend and all of us were trying to get out of the office. We had to scramble to put something together and it wasn’t an easy job either: Eighteen roles and every actor coming in had to read for multiple parts! We were stuck in the office until about 10:00 pm getting the schedule together, prepping the studio, assembling props and so on.

I did eventually make it out of town on Saturday for a day and a half, so that was nice, but had to hit the ground running on Tuesday. It was another 6:00 am to 10:00 pm day.

Today, up at 6:00 am again and into the office for another long day of casting. Meanwhile, I had a meeting with a NY actor who may be moving to town (but *not* giving up his recurring role on Law & Order: SVU!) and again with the director/acting coach regarding his workshop. Eventually made it home at about 9:00 pm and started straightening things up for another NY actor (friend of mine) who is coming to stay for a few days.

Then, instead of going to bed as I should have (since I have a 7:30 am meeting tomorrow, followed by callbacks for yesterday’s job, prepping Friday’s callbacks for today’s job, AND a show to attend in the evening!), I saw how far behind I was on my blog and ended up here.

But who knows when I’ll make it back next? The next several days and evenings are fully booked.

The weather has been gorgeous lately, but I’ve rarely even seen the light of day in the past couple weeks. [SIGH]

Why couldn’t WINTER be the busy season, so that we could enjoy the summer months??

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Casting Diversity

by admin

Things are sailing along smoothly. We are wrapping up three jobs right now: completing bookings, running Station 12’s, preparing the Taft reports, getting scripts out to talent.

This morning, I helped a theatre director track down some Asian-American actors for a show he is putting on. As usual, the demand for non-Caucasian actors is high, but the local supply, unfortunately, is limited.

On the good side, advertisers and filmmakers are finally making an effort to represent the full spectrum of ethnic backgrounds in their productions. Out of the last three jobs we have cast, for example, five roles were for Caucasians and 10 were for actors of color. But sometimes we pull our hair out just trying to find enough people who fit the demographics to bring in. Since only a percentage of them have sufficient acting experience, it makes casting very difficult.

I’m not sure what the solution is. Perhaps there needs to be more outreach to encourage actors of color to pursue their craft? C’mon people, the demand is there!! Where are you folks??? Help a poor casting director out!!

My online course has some lively student actors in a few of the sections this month. I just noticed that my course is in the catalogues of over 900 colleges, from Anchorage in the north to the Universidad Austral de Chile in the south, and from Maui in the west to Abu Dhabi in the east. Wow. That’s crazy! But we’re having fun. I’m working with some high school grads, a print model, a deaf actress, a voice-over talent and many others from cities all over the world. All are eager to dive in and get on-camera work. Hopefully, by the end of the course, they’ll have the tools they need to market themselves as professionals.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Bring on the Elvi!

by admin

Oy! An update is long overdue. Sorry!

The feature we’ve been working on is more or less finished–except for the NY casting, but we’ve got time, since those scenes aren’t shooting until August. Principal photography begins this weekend and everyone is excited. We pulled together an amazing cast and helped the director line up an A-list crew, so I think it will be a blast.

The last few weeks have flown by. We’ve been casting teens for an educational CD-ROM, a gambling spot slated to air on ESPN Radio, two nationals for two different clients, another indie feature and two theatre productions. Looks like we also may have another VO job on the horizon. We’ve cast Psychic Elvises (or as I prefer to call them, Elvi), men who can stand on their heads, “spotologists” and, tomorrow, babies.

In the midst of this, I attended a staged reading of a new play last Monday and a production of “Blue/Orange” by Joe Penhall last Tuesday. I missed the London production at the Duchess Theatre when it came out, but I did get to meet and audition Bill Nighy for a few movies when I was working in casting over there. He’s a stunning actor and a hard act to follow!

On Sunday night, I went to the screening of a film I cast about a year ago and I was so pleased with how it turned out. The director realized her vision exactly as I had imagined it when reading her script. The imagery was stunning, the cast did a great job and the film was beautifully produced. This will be one for the reel!

Monday night was the city’s drama critics’ awards, honoring all the outstanding stage performances and productions of the past year. It was a huge success with a great turn-out and some well-deserved kudos. One production of “Recent Tragic Events” by Craig Wright (a writer for HBO’S “Six Feet Under”) swept away six awards and an actor who used to be in my theatre company (many moons ago!) took home Best Supporting Actor. All very exciting! A big group of us went out for food and drinks afterwards to celebrate.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Drive-by here….

by admin

Just a quickie before I call it a night. We had a nice and lazy Memorial Day weekend, but hit the ground running yesterday and today on the feature we’ve been working on for the past three weeks.

Last night, we had to audition an actress that was flying through town on her way to NYC. She had a short lay-over of just a few hours, so one of the producers picked her up at the airport, brought her back to the director’s house and we had her read with the lead actor, who happens to be in town to help us with callbacks this week.

We had a fun time watching them improv various scenarios from the script, then we went out for a quick dinner before she had to head back to the airport to catch her red-eye home.

Today, we brought back about 40 actors and mixed-and-matched them according to role. It was a rather complicated process, as we didn’t want any of them to have to wait too long, but some actors were reading for multiple roles or with multiple partners. In the end, I think the director got to see what she wanted. She took home the DVD of the session and will probably have answers for us in the next day or so.

Meanwhile, we’re starting work on a new job. This one requires very strong teen actors and a lot of diversity, so we’re putting out an all-points bulletin. Hoping we don’t have to look outside of market to find what we need, as it’s always a pain to bring minors in from out-of-state.

There’s another feature on the horizon as well, that I hope to talk to the director about tomorrow. The wheels are in full spin!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Find your objective!

by admin

The big fundraiser I was helping produce went off without a hitch on Saturday. Well, almost: We lost one of the headlining bands I had helped book, despite desperate negotiations in the days leading up to the event. Fortunately, we were able to fill in the gap by extending the other bands’ sets and, to be honest, people were having too much fun to complain. I got to meet some interesting people, including the former mayor, a Broadway actor and one of our members of Congress. Neat!

This week and next, we’re having a blast working on a feature film. The script is good, so it’s a lot of fun working with the actors, trying different interpretations and letting them play with the scenes. We’ve seen some really good talent so far and the director is tickled. I’ve got another session this afternoon, in which I’m hoping to knock out the last of the lead and supporting roles. After that, we’ll see where we’re at and fill in the blanks. Part of the film shoots in New York City, so I’ll still have those roles to cast, but that should be pretty straightforward.

We head into callbacks next week, when one of the leads (who was pre-cast) will fly in to read with several of the callback actors. Then on to bookings and perhaps another feature that I just got called about yesterday! I still have to read the screenplay on that one, but I know the filmmaker and the buzz is that his script is very, very good. We’re also heading into casting on a non-broadcast project for one of our regular clients that will require teenagers. So things are buzzing along.

Okay, I have a gripe. Often, in addition to the script or sides, talent agents will forward the character descriptions off the breakdown to talent prior to their audition. I know they do this to give the actors an idea about the characters are reading for, but it drives me up the wall.

Inevitably, actors will come in playing the CHARACTER DESCRIPTION (thinking this must be what the director is looking for) instead of playing the $%^&*@! OBJECTIVE in the scene.

This happened yesterday with one of the roles we were casting. Yes, on the breakdown, I may tell the agents I’m looking for a “middle-aged woman with tired eyes and an undercurrent of sadness”, but this is to help the AGENTS decide which of their talent fit that description. They submit the appropriate actors to our office and we go through and narrow it down to the ones who fit the role most closely.

So by the time the actors get the sides, we have already determined that they inherently possess that quality. What we want them to do is come in and play THEMSELVES (or a close version) in the situation of the script, NOT play a type. Nevertheless, when actors read the breakdown, they sometimes come in and try to play that “middle-aged woman with tired eyes and an undercurrent of sadness”. Arrgh! No! Figure out what you’re trying to DO in the scene to the other character! Forget about the character description and focus on what is happening NOW in the scene.

We are going to have to bring back several actors who did this yesterday for one of the roles and tell them to forget everything they did at the last audition and start from scratch. Very frustrating, because they are good actors; they just got unnecessarily sidetracked. Some directors may not have given them a second chance, but fortunately, the one I’m working with understands what happened.

Okay, end of gripe.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Fight for Your Career!

by admin

The ever-useful Backstage.com ran a great article on Monday called Fight for Your Career. An actor named JP Davis, tired of not getting anywhere, decided to write, produce and act in his own movie. In the Backstage article, he tells the story of how he did it.

Bravo, JP! I’m a strong advocate for taking things into your own hands, especially when it comes to acting and similar creative fields.

We all know that there are a select few who get noticed early on and are whisked away to fame and fortune.

And then there’s everybody else.

Typically, everyone else keeps plugging away, waiting for a similar big break, but rarely does anything significant happen. UNLESS they discover their niche, fine-tune it and then take things into their own hands to get exposure.

It disheartens me to see talented actors spinning their wheels, waiting for the phone to ring or for one of their mass-mailings to pay off, when their time would be much better spent, in my opinion, if they were to put together their own projects.

A group of comedians I know have done just that: They formed a sketch comedy troupe, and have worked together for years honing their writing and performing skills. They began attending sketch comedy festivals around the country, gaining some notoriety, and then started hosting a sketch fest of their own.

And now, their hard work is paying off: When I attended the Chicago SketchFest back in January, they were one of the headliners and everyone in town (including the Chicago casting directors I was working with) knew who they were. Now they’re heading to New York to perform at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre as part of the SketchFest NYC and audition for HBO’s U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.

Moreover, because they have now established a reputation for themselves, they frequently get called in on commercial and film auditions that require comedic actors. They’re in high demand, because they have something unique to offer and they created it themselves.

Rarely have I met actors with such dedication. They’ve busted their butts for years to get where they are today. But they’re much farther along than any of them would have been, had they sat around waiting for something to happen–rather than making it happen.

And so is JP Davis, whose film “Fighting Tommy Riley” opened last Friday in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and the Hamptons. More power to him!

Thursday, May 5, 2005

All I can say is GRR!!

by admin

[Rant o’ the day]

Ah, May sweeps! The time of year that advertising rates are set, based on each network’s market share. The season when they all try to glue us to the tube with their “best” programming.

Who could miss a biopic on The Donald? Or how about The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz?

But wait! There’s something more important than May sweeps??

A Bush news conference?!?

$%#@^&*!!

Read on:

Networks relent and cede May sweeps airtime to Bush news conference
UPI News Service, 04/29/2005

Peer pressure caused the major networks to decide at the last minute to carry President Bush’s news conference Thursday night, Daily Variety said Friday.

The paper said ABC was the only one of the big four networks committed to carrying the news conference initially. CBS, FOX and NBC planned to air their regular programming, since Thursday was the first night of the May sweeps, the ratings period that determines how much they can charge advertisers.

Variety said NBC was the first of the holdouts to accede to the White House request for air time, after persuading the White House to begin the session at 8 p.m. EDT, rather than at its originally scheduled time of 8:30 p.m. The paper said Fox and CBS followed NBC in short order.

The president acknowledged the networks’ dilemma when he called for one “final question” at 8:58.

“I don’t want to cut into some of these TV shows that are getting ready to air,” he said, “for the sake of the economy.”

However, Variety reported it was already too late for that.

“All the networks are going to lose a lot of money on this,” the paper quoted a network source.

———–

Even if the networks’ programming does leave something to be desired, I’d rather they subject us to Britney Spear’s new reality show than devote a minute’s time to that nincompoop.

[/Rant]

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

New interns, yeay!

by admin

Things are more under control this week, whew!

We had two sessions today: One was a pick-up casting for a job we worked on last week that had a low turnout, due to actors being unavailable. The other was a new job for one of my bigger clients. We delivered tapes to both clients at the end of the day and should be hearing back soon on their picks. I’m interested to hear their impressions, as we brought in a few new folks today.

I had tickets to see an original play on Thursday night, but I almost had to miss it, because a friend of a friend was in the ICU after a terrible car accident. 🙁 I managed to sneak away long enough to see the show–as I didn’t want to let down the actor who had arranged the comp tickets–but I went back to the hospital immediately afterwards to hold vigil with my friend. The stress from that and from four weeks of intense casting left me exhausted. I had tickets to see another show on Sunday, but I ended up giving them to my assistant.

Tomorrow, I’m meeting with a theatre producer I know to discuss some of his upcoming projects. He put on a fantastic production of “The Bald Soprano” and “The Lesson” by Ionesco last summer and now he’s thinking about producing a new show this summer. We got to talking the last time I ran into him and thought it would be fun to get together and brainstorm and talk theatre. Can’t wait!

Our current intern is doing great and now we may be bringing on a few more! There’s an actor I know who works at the Art Institute and he’s making arrangements for us to interview a few of his students. I’d love to have a couple interns to help with dubbing and editing and other technical tasks. He says they all have experience with Final Cut Pro and the like, so I’m looking forward to meeting them.

Arrgh, I forgot to mention that one of the actresses we had on avail for the job I cast in Seattle called her agent over the weekend to back out of it! $%#@#&*!! Now we have to recast and client is NOT going to be happy. On this particular job, client wanted to cast first and write the scripts afterwards, basing them on the personalities and character types of the actors chosen. So I’m sure the writers have been hard at work writing this actress’s script and now she has to be replaced.

Grr.

Actors: Don’t try this at home.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I Have Found It!

by admin

Things look like they’ll be more manageable this week. Most of the jobs we are working on are in the final phases.

Job #1 is almost finished. Just need to finalize bookings, run Station 12 and do the Taft-Hartleys.

Job #2 finally has a cast. We almost lost one of the principals, because the shoot date conflicted with another booking she had. Luckily, the client on that job was kind enough to move her calltime to the afternoon, so she could shoot ours in the morning. Whew.

Job #3 has a cast as well. The client’s first choice for one of the roles got whisked off to another state to fill in for an actor who was sick in a stage production, right before we called to put everyone on avail!! Luckily, the client’s second choice was equally as strong and will do just fine.

Job #4 should have a cast soon. Client is going over our submissions and will call us with their top picks by Wednesday.

Job #5 is casting tomorrow. Heavy day. I think we scheduled about a hundred people, but we’ll probably be seeing closer to seventy. There are lots of roles, though, and we’re seeing people in groups. Should be fun.

Job #6 is casting Wednesday. It’s actually more of a callbacks session, because of the short turnaround. This is for a spokesperson-type role. Teleprompter experience a plus!

Jobs #7-11 are pretty much finished, except for invoicing.

I’m hoping to meet this week with a new client who has several jobs on the horizon. Also found out I’ll be working on an indie feature in June. I have worked with the director/producer before and had a blast working with her on casting. The script is great, so it should be a lot of fun for us and for the actors.

My online course has an enthusiastic high school student in one of the sections this month. Always glad to lend a hand to hard-working young people who are serious about their vocation! He posts intelligent questions and is obviously taking his career into his own hands. Bravo!

Some friends and I had a hankering to watch a Bollywood film the other night, so we ended up renting “I Have Found It” (technically speaking, a Kollywood film, as it’s in Tamil, not Hindi). It was an adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensability,” starring former Miss World, Aishwarya Rai and it clocked in at over two and a half hours. Lots of singing and dancing that did little to advance the plot (or plots, as it seemed!), but all in good fun. 🙂

Friday, April 22, 2005

Tag, I’m it!

by admin

My friend Sid over at New Frames tagged me with a book meme that has been doing the rounds. I enjoyed reading her answers and thought I’d post mine.

You’re stuck in ‘Fahrenheit 451’. Which book would you save?

I guess it would have to be the Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

Not only because the universality of his plays would be enough to keep me entertained for a long time, but also because I wouldn’t want his works to be lost to posterity.

Speaking of which, the most exciting news EVER came to me this week from a stage director I have worked with a few times over the years. If anyone is into classical (read: Greek and Roman) literature, this article is a MUST-READ (posted in a separate blog entry, because it’s so long!).

Wow. It’s as if the Library of Alexandria never burnt down!! It gives me heart palpitations just thinking about it. All week, I’ve been reliving the scene in Tom Stoppard’s brilliant play “Arcadia,” in which Thomasina laments the burning of the Library of Alexandria:

THOMASINA: “Oh, Septimus! – can you bear it? All the lost plays of the Athenians! Two hundred at least by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides – thousands of poems – Aristotle’s own library brought to Egypt by [Cleopatra’s] ancestors! How can we sleep for grief?”

SEPTIMUS: “By counting our stock. Seven plays from Aeschylus, seven from Sophocles, nineteen from Euripides, my lady! You should no more grieve for the rest than for a buckle lost from your first shoe, or for your lesson book which will be lost when you are old. We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. but there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language. Ancient cures for diseases will reveal themselves once more. Mathematical discoveries glimpsed and lost to view will have their time again. You do not suppose, my lady, that if all of Archimedes had been hiding in the great library at Alexandria, we would be at a loss for a corkscrew?”

How prescient of Stoppard, one of my favorite playwrights ever (even if he is a conservative!). 😉

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

I’m sure I have, but more likely a character in a play than in any novel. A few heroes with personal significance to me come to mind: John Proctor in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller. Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Kaliayev in Albert Camus’ “The Just Assassins.”

What is the last book you bought?

Been a while since I bought a book, but I recently checked out “The Rise of the Creative Class,” by Richard Florida.

What are you currently reading?

A couple real estate and tax planning books by Diane Kennedy, one of Robert Kiyosaki’s financial advisors.

Now…whom should I send this off to next?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Classical Literature Lost and Found!

by admin

This is too exciting not to spread the word:

Decoded at Last: The “Classical Holy Grail” That May Rewrite the History of the World

Scientists begin to unlock the secrets of papyrus scraps bearing long-lost words by the literary giants of Greece and Rome

By David Keys and Nicholas Pyke
for The Independent

17 April 2005

For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure – a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.

Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

In the past four days alone, Oxford’s classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.

The original papyrus documents, discovered in an ancient rubbish dump in central Egypt, are often meaningless to the naked eye – decayed, worm-eaten and blackened by the passage of time. But scientists using the new photographic technique, developed from satellite imaging, are bringing the original writing back into view. Academics have hailed it as a development which could lead to a 20 per cent increase in the number of great Greek and Roman works in existence. Some are even predicting a “second Renaissance”.

Christopher Pelling, Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Oxford, described the new works as “central texts which scholars have been speculating about for centuries”.

Professor Richard Janko, a leading British scholar, formerly of University College London, now head of classics at the University of Michigan, said: “Normally we are lucky to get one such find per decade.” One discovery in particular, a 30-line passage from the poet Archilocos, of whom only 500 lines survive in total, is described as “invaluable” by Dr Peter Jones, author and co-founder of the Friends of Classics campaign.

The papyrus fragments were discovered in historic dumps outside the Graeco-Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus (“city of the sharp-nosed fish”) in central Egypt at the end of the 19th century. Running to 400,000 fragments, stored in 800 boxes at Oxford’s Sackler Library, it is the biggest hoard of classical manuscripts in the world.

The previously unknown texts, read for the first time last week, include parts of a long-lost tragedy – the Epigonoi (“Progeny”) by the 5th-century BC Greek playwright Sophocles; part of a lost novel by the 2nd-century Greek writer Lucian; unknown material by Euripides; mythological poetry by the 1st-century BC Greek poet Parthenios; work by the 7th-century BC poet Hesiod; and an epic poem by Archilochos, a 7th-century successor of Homer, describing events leading up to the Trojan War. Additional material from Hesiod, Euripides and Sophocles almost certainly await discovery.

Oxford academics have been working alongside infra-red specialists from Brigham Young University, Utah. Their operation is likely to increase the number of great literary works fully or partially surviving from the ancient Greek world by up to a fifth. It could easily double the surviving body of lesser work – the pulp fiction and sitcoms of the day.

“The Oxyrhynchus collection is of unparalleled importance – especially now that it can be read fully and relatively quickly,” said the Oxford academic directing the research, Dr Dirk Obbink. “The material will shed light on virtually every aspect of life in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, and, by extension, in the classical world as a whole.”

The breakthrough has also caught the imagination of cultural commentators. Melvyn Bragg, author and presenter, said: “It’s the most fantastic news. There are two things here. The first is how enormously influential the Greeks were in science and the arts. The second is how little of their writing we have. The prospect of having more to look at is wonderful.”

Bettany Hughes, historian and broadcaster, who has presented TV series including Mysteries of the Ancients and The Spartans, said: “Egyptian rubbish dumps were gold mines. The classical corpus is like a jigsaw puzzle picked up at a jumble sale – many more pieces missing than are there. Scholars have always mourned the loss of works of genius – plays by Sophocles, Sappho’s other poems, epics. These discoveries promise to change the textual map of the golden ages of Greece and Rome.”

When it has all been read – mainly in Greek, but sometimes in Latin, Hebrew, Coptic, Syriac, Aramaic, Arabic, Nubian and early Persian – the new material will probably add up to around five million words. Texts deciphered over the past few days will be published next month by the London-based Egypt Exploration Society, which financed the discovery and owns the collection.

A 21st-century technique reveals antiquity’s secrets

Since it was unearthed more than a century ago, the hoard of documents known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri has fascinated classical scholars. There are 400,000 fragments, many containing text from the great writers of antiquity. But only a small proportion have been read so far. Many were illegible.

Now scientists are using multi-spectral imaging techniques developed from satellite technology to read the papyri at Oxford University’s Sackler Library. The fragments, preserved between sheets of glass, respond to the infra-red spectrum – ink invisible to the naked eye can be seen and photographed.

The fragments form part of a giant “jigsaw puzzle” to be reassembled. Missing “pieces” can be supplied from quotations by later authors, and grammatical analysis.

Key words from the master of Greek tragedy

Speaker A: . . . gobbling the whole, sharpening the flashing iron.

Speaker B: And the helmets are shaking their purple-dyed crests, and for the wearers of breast-plates the weavers are striking up the wise shuttle’s songs, that wakes up those who are asleep.

Speaker A: And he is gluing together the chariot’s rail.

These words were written by the Greek dramatist Sophocles, and are the only known fragment we have of his lost play Epigonoi (literally “The Progeny”), the story of the siege of Thebes. Until last week’s hi-tech analysis of ancient scripts at Oxford University, no one knew of their existence, and this is the first time they have been published.

Sophocles (495-405 BC), was a giant of the golden age of Greek civilisation, a dramatist who work alongside and competed with Aeschylus, Euripides and Aristophanes.

His best-known work is Oedipus Rex, the play that later gave its name to the Freudian theory, in which the hero kills his father and marries his mother – in a doomed attempt to escape the curse he brings upon himself. His other masterpieces include Antigone and Electra.

Sophocles was the cultured son of a wealthy Greek merchant, living at the height of the Greek empire. An accomplished actor, he performed in many of his own plays. He also served as a priest and sat on the committee that administered Athens. A great dramatic innovator, he wrote more than 120 plays, but only seven survive in full.

Last week’s remarkable finds also include work by Euripides, Hesiod and Lucian, plus a large and particularly significant paragraph of text from the Elegies, by Archilochos, a Greek poet of the 7th century BC.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Casting in the Emerald City

by admin

I haven’t had much time to write lately. We are still operating at full speed.

On Monday, I went to the memorial for the local director who passed away recently. It took place in a theatre, naturally. It was great to see so many actors come out of the woodworks to honor his memory.

At the end of last week, I was in Seattle casting the final few roles on a project I’ve been working on for months. It was great to get out of town a bit, and I took advantage of the opportunity for some R&R in the Emerald City over the weekend. We just got the cast list from client yesterday and it looks like they’ve made some good choices, so I feel happy about our work. Just need to finish bookings and get the ball rolling on travel arrangements for the talent, and we’ll be able to wrap the books on this one.

This week, we had callbacks on two different projects. On the first one, we found some GREAT kids. It was so exciting to discover a couple new, very strong young actors!! Several of them had extensive theatre backgrounds for their young age, and it really showed. They were so professional; they listened to and followed direction and asked pertinent questions. They weren’t just reciting rehearsed lines; they were pursuing objectives, trying to get what they wanted from the other character. I was pumped! Can’t wait to use them again.

We’ve got another casting today. My assistant is off, but I have a great new intern who will be helping out, so all should go smoothly.

Better head out….

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Walt Disney Studios / ABC TV Fellowship Programs

by admin

Hi folks,

Just a quick peek in to say that we’ve been slammed! Today was a mere 14 hour day and it felt positively luxurious!

This afternoon, I snuck out of my casting session for a few hours to attend a meeting with the VP of Talent Development for ABC Television and one of the casting directors from Walt Disney Entertainment who specializes in hiring entertainers for Walt Disney World. They are traveling around the country scouting actors and performers for their Talent Development Casting Project.

I was excited to see that they were putting a special emphasis on diversity, by seeking out the country’s finest actors of color, seniors, actors with disabilities, etc. and priming them for careers in film and television. Most of the jobs we are working on this week call for either senior actors or actors of color (or both) and I’m ALWAYS wishing there were enough of them around to meet the demand!

We have casting sessions all this week, including one in Seattle that I have to travel to. And the flood shows no sign of letting up: We got called about a few more gigs today.