Monday, December 7, 2015

What to Expect at Meals for Monologues

This morning I headed out to Portland for the Cast Iron Studios Meals for Monologues.  I got there about an hour before the place opened and was the third one in line.  I was a bit shocked because in NYC I went two to three hours early to a slightly similar event and was the 50th in line. 
 I took in some cans of beans.  The requirement was three.  I became friends with the amazing actors, Kate, Linda, and Kat, that were sitting near me. We cheered each other on and Linda, specifically, gave me some really great pointers since I am still new at this whole auditioning process.  She told me don't forget your slate and frame.  For those reading unsure what a slate is, it is when you introduce yourself before hand.  Nearly every time I practiced my monologue, I introduced myself to the imaginary casting directors watching. . . this time I forgot.  Oopsie.  I know I made two mistakes in my monologue, but I did my best at pretending I didn't and moved forward.  I also asked about the framing to find out if it was okay.  
Now for what to expect:
  • Get there early--like within fifteen minutes of the start time to get into line.  I saw a facebook message from Cast Iron Studios around 3:30 p.m. that said that they had one more hour for people to come in before they would be out of spots.  This is Portland, not New York, so it's easier to make it into the studio.  
  • Bring at least three cans of food with you.  Toys are accepted as well.
  • Have your two minute monologue all prepared
  • When I walked into the room there were three people there.
    • Cast Iron Studios representative, Lana
    • Damon--an agent.  They invite several different agents to come and keep time.
    • Casting Director, Eryn
    • a camera
    • lighting equipment
    • a computer
  • Do your slate (thanks, Linda)--introduce yourself and ask how you are framed by the camera--full-body or what.
  • Do not expect feedback--you're just giving them with a taste of what you can do.
When I started to leave, this entire group that came as a studio from North East Portland. When I said, "Do you want to be in a picture I am putting on my blog?" They posed in five seconds flat.   I had no idea I was biting my tongue.

I took in some thank you notes.  I hope Lana and Eryn get them.

Added Later:  I found out that the agent that was there was Damon Jones of the Actors in Action Talent Agency. Just thought you may want to know.

Monday, November 30, 2015


 I was able to make it to the Orientation and to the Studio filming class.
  It was a great experience.  I am looking forward to going back and learning more.
The first thing they ask you is what kind of show you want to do and each person has a great idea that they can't wait to share with the other people there and with the people tuning in to CCTV.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

CCAT 29--Corvallis, OR

Since writing the last post.  I found out about the public access station that I can go to and it is actually further away, in Corvallis.  Their website is currently experiencing technical difficulties, but it should be fixed in a couple of weeks.

 I think the classes are $100 a class.  I emailed CCAT 29 and I told them about my experience at CCTV and the girl that emailed me back said that they are very small compared to CCTV and that they are working on their schedule for November.

I forgot to mention that CCTV covers three channels.

Still determined to learn all I can, I am going to go find out about both of these places and I will update you on any new leads.

Thank you to the Grimm film crew for directing me to these places to learn more about filming!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

CCTV--Salem, Oregon

In an act of determination and hopefully a touch of inspiration, I went to see what I assumed was the closest public access television station, in Salem Oregon CCTV.

They were super friendly.  They gave me an overview of what their station does and what classes you can take. If you are a resident of Salem, Oregon they have opportunities galore for you.  You could even have your own show on their three stations. Plus, you could check out film, lighting, and sound equipment for free.

In order to do that, you have to learn the ropes.  First you have to take the orientation which is at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month.  They offer classes and check-out of filming equipment for the classes that they offer.  The Studio Production Class is free.  Then they have a Camera Class which shows you how to operate CCTV's HD camcorders.  It is a basic class and it is $25.   The Editing Class is also $25 and shows you how to use Final Cut Pro X.

I am hoping that they change their rules, or at least make it possible for me to pay a small fee so I can use their tools and learn all I can.

Remember The Martha Stewart Show? I miss going to it!

When I told them that the film crew from Grimm had suggested I check them out, by mentioning their station specifically.  That made them smile and Arlan Robinson, the man that came to talk to me at the desk and Community Facilitator, joked, "The only way we could get a higher recommendation is if it came from the President of the United States."

When he found out I was an extra he told me about one of the other people that has an Oprah-like show at CCTV in Spanish, was also an extra before.  Then he said, point blank, "What is your show idea."

From all that I have read, if someone asks you that you are supposed to have an immediate response ready.  So I stuttered, "Something to do with family history and stories from the past."

In my defense I don't want to give all the details of my show-in-my-head out casually.  I want it to be official and catered to the listener with complete preparation.

Eventually, it is my goal to have my work to the point where I feel proud to have it on television.  W, my sweet husband, reminded me that my work has to be really good to get on there.  No pressure, right?! [Gulp].

Already my brain is in overdrive clarifying my show idea. I already have part of the first episode story boarded.  Now I have to find a resident of Salem (or hopefully Marion county) to go to the Orientation with me.

Hoping. Hoping. Hoping.

P.S.  These photos are from Brooklyn, my watching Blue Bloods filming (not as an extra) if you remember.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What Would You Do?

We'd gone on the carousel and the train circling the zoo and went to play on the toys. Eventually the boys were chasing the huge Canadian Geese and then stopped to plant trees (acorns).

I was exhausted, not sweaty but perspiring, and hot—it was 83 degrees Fahrenheit in October. We were leaving to get into the car.

The boys ran through a small maze to get out to the road when I noticed three girls picking
on one girl. They were about 14 or 15 and they were shouting mean, awful things at her (gratefully not swearing), but I didn't want my children to see that and I especially didn't want them to say mean things to anyone. So I did what any good mother with two kids would do. [Significant pause.]

I mentioned it to my friend with me She was playing with the kids completely oblivious to it. She listened for a moment and marched right over there and calmly talked to the shouting girls; explaining that they shouldn't be talking to anyone in that way because children were watching, etc.

She was so good I could have started clapping. Instead, I got on my teacher stance—you know the one—the you'd-better-listen-up-because-I-am-watching-you stance. Their arguments against my friend were fruitless and, well, corny.

"You have no idea what is like to be our age. We are popular and all she does is sit in the park and read." Okay, I have to admit I did laugh a little out loud at their arguments (thinking—oh dear is she in for a surprise when she grows up).

To which I replied in a somewhat entertained voice, "Well, going to Harvard isn't a bad thing." Don't tell me, that is genius, right?!  I am kidding.  But I did say that, I am attributing that to pregnancy brain--I was five months pregnant at the time--note the cute belly.

The girls stuttered, "Well! We're leaving." They marched across the road and into the depths of the park.

I couldn't help but call out, "Just so you know, if you do that again she can call the police and have you picked-up." I couldn't think of any of the right words.

 My friend and I consoled the girl left a little letting her know we admired her strength in standing up to the girls and for her apparent thirst for learning.

Then, we walked a few feet away just in case the girls would come back immediately after we left and our two boys, aged 4, ran to the stream nearby to watch a turtle sunning himself on a rock. After discussing the sequence of events with a little, "Does this really happen in real-life like this?" A woman came up to us and said something toward the effect of, "Thank you for standing up to those girls like that."

You were the first ones to do it in a long time." To which she paused and we said it was despicable or something.

Then the girls came back and said, "It was all fake!"

I replied by giving them hugs and saying, "I am so glad!"

The lady said, "I am from ABC news and what just happened was recorded and if it's okay with you we'd like to interview you for the series in Primetime called "What would you do?"

To which okay friends, this is where my normal level-headed self stepped out for a drink of mental water or something because I was nowhere near my usual mental capacity. I was enough there to think—the boys are by the stream I'd better go get them—but that was about it.

They interviewed me and it went something like this.

Interviewer/her (names didn't stick at all—mental vacation, remember?): Can you tell me what just happened there?

Me: There were three girls, uh-no, four and they were arguing. Well, actually there were three girls arguing at the-uh-fourth girl and it was not good. Is that what you wanted (obviously not).

Her: What were the thoughts going through your head as you talked with them?
Me: Is this real? Do people really do that? Why would they do that here? Sorry (I felt sorry for them coming up with this idea and me seeing through it but not really).

Her: (obviously getting a little peeved at my answers and my daughter beginning to squirm in my arms dropping things and me bending down to pick them up while stepping out of the way of the camera and microphone to check on the boys still coming up with ways of rescuing the baby turtle and the camera man asking me to step to the right--again). Can you please restate the questions in your answer because the audience won't hear me ask the questions.
Me: Er—(bend down to pick up the silky—again), sure.

Weeeeelllll, you get the idea. By the time we were done Sarah was crying, I was feeling a little worried that the microphone man was going to bop me on the head with the microphone, and the boys had come up with a brilliant plan of an underwater airplane to rescue the turtle. But the turtle was really fine because it was just sitting where it's mommy could see it (or something)—the ABC crew member was watching them the whole time—but I don't know them from Adam (as my Mother would say) and I wanted to be sure for myself they were okay.

Right afterward the crew interviewed R and his friend Alex. They told the camera crew all about the turtles and then I had to take Sarah away because she was crying. When I looked back Roscoe was trying to "catch" the microphone right above him. The whole situation was extremely . . . interesting. [Mental mommy cringe and chortle].

In the end, we didn't actually make it onto the screen for that part and my friend seemed so at ease and able to say just the right thing. I was so proud to be her friend!

Do you want to see it?

I know, technically this is acting as myself, but it was on television and I had several friends recognize me.  Also, how wonderful is to to be caught doing something good--even if I was the person standing next to the person doing good. It still counts, right?!

Saturday, April 4, 2015


 It aired!  And look--they were looking at me. :)  Can you see me?  I had to hug the guy that came and sat by me.  My daughter was shocked that I hugged a complete stranger.  It made me laugh that she was so serious about the fact that I hugged a nice man I did not know.  We had a great discussion though.

 Here is where it was--between 37 and 35 minutes left of the episode.

Monday, February 9, 2015


How I got on the show
I am part of extrasonly.  That is the website to sign up for to get onto Grimm in Portland.  You can also give them some ideas of props that you have--like a car.

I submitted my name several times for parts.  The reason they wanted me was for my car, but I'll take what I can get. :)  In New York, if your an extra with a car, sometimes (if not all--I'm not sure) they will have you stay in your car. That is not how it works in Portland.

Seeing the Grimm and Hank
The PA, Amanda, had all five of us who brought cars, to wait in the holding which was in the back room of the restaurant where David Giuntoli and Russel Hornsby (Nick and Hank) were filming. I didn't get to see Mr. Hornsby other than behind the glass separating us, but I did get to see Mr. Giuntoli several times, walking through holding. During filming I was right outside the window of the cafe where they were talking.

I didn't get to hear any of their lines.  But at one point, when we weren't filming, Mr. Giuntoli (the Grimm) looked out the window at the machine that washes the streets and sure enough, he looked exactly like he does in the show--all pensive and deep in thought.  I smiled at him, but he was looking just past me so I don't know if he saw.

What surprised me
The extras on the show were all delighted to be on it, because it was Grimm. They happily said that they had set their devices to record it so they wouldn't miss the show that was going to be on that night.  This is completely the opposite from the reactions of the extras in New York.  Many there said that they didn't even watch themselves on the episodes they were on and didn't know anything about their shows.  Between the two, I prefer the Portland excitement.  I like the show too and it was fun to talk with fellow enthusiasts.

What I learned
Embrace the awkward.  I rehearsed questions in my head driving up to Oregon City for the filming, I told myself that I didn't care how awkward I felt I was going to move forward and ask questions.  Somehow giving myself permission to feel out-of-place and move past it really helped my determination to ask questions to the crew.

I received vocal permission from each of the following people to put what they said on my blog.  That said, I did not record our conversations and hastily wrote down the general idea of what they said--so hopefully it makes sense.

Matthew Barbee, First Assistant Camera: "b" camera
Grimm is usually filmed with two cameras and with action scenes three. Actually, Matt did not tell me that, someone else did, but it gives some perspective.
1.  What is an easy to camera to use when starting filming?
Canon 7D is good for beginners and if you want to spend more try a Canon C300 which is around $13K, but is rentable for somewhere around $200 a day.
2. I have two lenses at the moment--a kit zoom lens and a 50:1.4.  What do you suggest would be the next lenses I should get?  The 16-35mm; 70-200mm; and the 24-70mm, in that order.  They are also rentable.
3. Many people I have talked to say that you just need to get making movies. I have been trying to make a 2-5 minute short a month. What do you think should be my next goal?  Work with other creatives.  People need to see that you can work with others.  Watch other directors and learn from them.

Chris--whose last name I did not get and there seems to be three electricians with the first name of Chris, so if you see this Chris--you know who you are and if you'd like I can change this to your last name.  
1. Please tell me what I can do to get the best results for lighting at the most basic level.
Natural light is the best and is generally the most forgiving. It can be soft. But avoid direct sunlight at noon.  Don't be afraid of the shadows. Colored light is dramatic.  Clear amber is basic Grimm lighting. (Note to self: Now, I'm going to really have to pay attention to the lighting and see if I can tell the difference when I watch the show).

Emie: Hair Stylist
1. How do you know how to do different period's hair? We are given several photos to use as inspiration.

Matt: Head Electrician: May be the best boy--but I could have misheard his name because I cannot find it. At one point he started doing the robot because the electricians had a running joke among them that when one of them was talking to a girl they do the robot.
What is your goal in the next five years? I think I need some ideas with that, could you tell me what would be some good goals? After your work gets better and better consider Public Access television.  You won't be paid for it, but your work will be out there for people to see.  Check it out in Salem, Gresham, MetroEast, Portland and Community TV.  It must be the first showing of what you make.

Todd: Lighting or Grip
Use a reflector when light is behind the subject. It will diffuse light into the face of the actor.  Grips shape light.  If you get a reflection in the window of the lights you use a black sheet of paper. White reflects light. Black absorbs light. A good light to act like the sun shining through the windows is 4khmi-m40 . 

Thank you so much to those who took the time to talk with me and to give me advice.  You are doing great work and what you said meant a lot to me and to my readers!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Top Ten Rules to Being A Great Extra

Having done this a number of times, I now feel somewhat qualified to write a list of rules for beginner background artist hopefuls, but in reality many of these rules apply to any job out there.

If you read nothing else remember to be polite and respectful.

1. Be on time.  This is the first rule from every background artist and their dog (okay, maybe not their dog--but maybe their great-aunt Harriet).  It's no joke.  When late, the production assistant, PA may practically shout out "YOU'RE LATE," this may happen even when, technically you are on-the-dot-on-time (I've seen it happen).  Also, even if the place you were given to go to is 4-5 blocks from holding and where you actually check in, you must plan ahead  because late is late in any PA's language.    One time I left for a shoot two hours early only to find that the address that they had given me at check in was bogus and that the shoot was in the middle of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY.  I don't know if you have ever been to Prospect Park, but I want you to know that it is huge--beautiful, but huge.  It took me that entire two hours to find the place where the shoot was.  I was late because I couldn't find it and I still got the stink eye. . . so plan to be way early and guess what else, if you want a part or a bigger role being the first one on the set--bright eyed and bushy tailed, in a manner of speaking, showing that you are ready, prepared and willing is key.

2.  Avoid gossiping, complaining or bemoaning.  Yes, that expert SAG actor may be loudly groaning about the lack of . . . anything . . . the entire time you are on and off set, but don't join in. Even if your sentiments match theirs and then some--because a negative Nelly or Ned never add anything and often detract from the goal of the production. If you're there to learn or to actually become an actor in any league the choosers will hear your whining from a mile away (whining can be done in facial expressions/body language too).  This may be challenging when you're feeling frozen and you desperately want to hop around to get warm. Don't whine. It looks like you desperately need to visit the nearest honey wagon (bathroom).

3. Act like the production means the world to you, because it may not to you, but it does to someone watching you and you will gain their respect by showing you care and want it to succeed. Respect goes a long way in any business.

4. Go above and beyond the call of duty. This means to help out when possible.  It may not be in your job description to help pick up pieces of paper that flew off the set, or to catch a prop that is being blown away by the wind.  But, it will show you are a dedicated person and willing to go out of your way. The head haunchoes may not notice, but it is likely someone on the production staff will--and they may be the future producers/directors/people of influence in the business and they may remember you.  At another shoot I was the only one of 700 people (it was a cattle call) that got down and helped pick up fake money so we could get to the next take--think how much faster it would have been if we would have all helped.  In fact, I helped so much that one of the people on the side asked if I wanted a job (but not in the acting department).
Don't you love all the fake money?
5. Always say thank you and look into their eyes when you say it. They may not have the time to answer, but it matters.  It is always appreciated, even if it is for only a moment. This includes PAs, wardrobe people, crew, catering, other extras who move for you, etc.

6. When you want to talk to anyone on the crew, wait until you get the OK signal. They probably will not beckon you to them or come and talk directly to you, but, like the normal rules of social engagements--if they smile and make direct eye contact with you and do not turn away if you move toward them, likeliness is they won't have a problem talking for a moment. If they act busy, it is not the time to talk with them because they probably are very busy and even if they would like to talk to you another time, are striving to make the most of each moment on set--because each minute has a diamond filled dollar sign attached to it in their mindset (in other words time = money).  Also, do not take up too much of their time.

7. If you want to talk to the principle actors, observe them. If they are talking, in a friendly way, to other extras, chances are they will be happy to talk with you for a few moments.  I wish wish wish I had had the courage to walk up and talk to Tom Selleck on the set of Blue Bloods.  He was talking with other extras and I think I could have learned a lot.  But I did get to talk momentarily to Sela Ward as she was gearing up for a different take in CSI:NY

8.  If you're on set--do not plan anything else.  Seriously, some shoots can go up to 16-18 hours, especially if the directors are finishing up their last days of shooting.  You can get some great overtime.  This includes night shoots.  If you get there at 5 p.m. do not assume that you'll be leaving at 6 a.m.

At one set, I had to leave at 7 a.m. because my husband had to get to work and I had to take the kids to school and be a mom. I was worried sick that if my husband was late, his boss would get really angry at him.  I got the okay to go from one of the second assistant directors.  I walked quickly back to check out, get my stuff, and get home.  But when I got to the desk to check out there were three PAs sitting there chatting.  The tall blonde one in the middle began to yell at me and yelled at me straight for 30-40 minutes, including calling the casting company and yelling at them to never hire me again because I was totally unprofessional and had no excuse to leave early.  In most circumstances like that I probably would have broken down and cried, but I was so utterly exhausted from being awake and standing and trying to stay warm all night for the shoot that I must have had a stupid grin on my face and I could not say a word more than yes or no.  If you know me, you understand that I smile a lot.  Grinning, for me, is a coping mechanism.  He yelled at me until the shoot was done and all the other background artists were coming back to leave.  I checked out as quickly as I could, but he made it really hard for me even to get my stuff.  The whole time, in my brain, all I could think, but not actually say, was something akin to what J.K. Rowling said, "If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."

I am telling you this, not to complain, but to impress upon you that being there for the whole shoot is really important (I had no idea) and professional.  Boy, have I learned my lesson. I still stay awake some nights remembering it and feeling slightly traumatized.  Never again, folks. Never again will I leave a shoot early--unless it is utterly dire.

9. Don't expect red carpet treatment.  On set, the people that are getting you where you need to be. As far as I could tell PAs are desperately trying to show the big guys that they are capable of handling monumental tasks--like getting hundreds of people here and there with little to no glitches.

10. If they ask for volunteers to do something and you're serious about becoming an actor, be the first, if not one of the first to volunteer.  You may get vouchers that could get you into the union (if you want to be in it).

You can do this.  Some people say that being an extra is the best way of earning money because you're doing nothing.  Let me tell you, folks.  Standing all day and acting a part requires endurance.   You can do it!  You'll be great! Learn all you can and then tell me about your experiences.