Sending in the ol' laptop for some repairs, so I'll be offline for a few days. I could use my wife's computer, but I've been spending enough time online as it is, and I have a bunch of movies to read and books to see. Er, I mean... No, that's probably right.
So last Saturday, my wife and I walked down to the Majestic Bay to see Batman Begins (rating: 80, btw, although the usual suspects demur). On the way there, we pass by the awesome new Ballard library that opened about a month ago, and I notice a sign in the lobby that read AUDITIONS. Huh, I thought, wonder what that's for. My wife asks if I want to go in and get info, but I want to get to the theater early -- I mean, it's Batman. I figure if the sign's still there when we come back, I'll inquire within.
So we get out of Batman Begin Again, very pleased, and head back home. Passing the library, I see that the sign is still there. Nothing better to do, so why not see what's up?
Now, as some of y'all might know, I'm not a complete newbie when it comes to acting. My degree is in theater, and I've plenty of plays under my belt. I've also done some stuff in front of the camera -- this is the biggest, although that's more of a "performance" than acting per se. But despite my experience, I've spent most of the last decade focusing on my writing, and while I've always loved acting, I never thought of it as "what I do". But writing is, of course, very solitary and very mental, and the onus of seeing a project through is completely on the shoulders of the writer. Actors, I think, have it a bit easier; they need only concern themselves with a single, intense task -- their role -- and the responsibility of the production, as a whole, is ultimately in other hands. There's a kind of freedom in slavery for the actor, and it's a kind of freedom I haven't tasted in a long while. So why not audition?
Why not, indeed?
So we go into the lobby and I read the audition scene, presumably from the screenplay they intend to film. It's funny, about a boss berating his employee -- kinda Coen Brotherish, I thought. The library has a small meeting room next to the lobby that can be rented for free, and it looks like they're auditioning someone, so I start filling out the questionnaire thingy. Now's when I start to get nervous, because I'm unsure how I should answer questions about my past experience. It's all a little... old, and it's not like I have URLs memorized for recent stuff like above.
But then the assistant director comes out, and asks if I'm auditioning. I say yes, and she asks if I made an appointment.
See, turns out the auditions were for people who answered a call board through places like 911 Media Arts. It wasn't for anyone who wandered in off the street.
I turn bright crimson and feel like a complete jackass. I cross my name off the call sheet that I signed ("everyone else had signed it!" I reasoned), hand her the questionnaire, and thank her for her time.
But wait. Am I an actor? she asks. Do I have experience? I tell her I do, and since there's a lull in the auditioning process, she thinks maybe I can squeeze in. Do I have a monologue prepared?
Um, no. (And now I feel like a jackass times two.)
I go into the room and meet the two guys making the movie. They seem pretty cool (impressive), young (intimidating) and they seem to have their shit together (impressive and intimidating). I introduce myself, and tell them about my Project Greenlight experience, which seems to go over well. They tell me I can start reading the scene whenever I'm ready. I've read it through three times by that point, and have a good idea how I want to approach the scene. And then I realize that my mouth and throat have gone totally bone dry and I can barely talk. One of the guys gets me a glass of water, which was incredibly kind, but fuck... now I'm at Jackass X 3.
(Oh, and then I ask, "Was I supposed to have the scene memorized?" Well of course not, and I kinda knew that, but I'm so nervous and so embarrassed by this point that I feel the need to try and head off any more potential embarrassment... and embarrass myself once again. Jackass X 4.)
So then I read the scene. It's a comedy, but I like to approach that kind of material, not wacky, but with some seriousness, since comedic characters generally don't know they're in a comedy. It sounded i-ight to my ears, but may have been too low-key and underplayed. Would it even register as acting?
There's a short moment of silence, and then they say it was very good. They briefly describe the character I'd be good for, then I shake their hands and thank them once again for the opportunity, and my wife and I head back home.
For most of the day, I'm a little freaked out. At first, because I'm still royally embarrassed by the whole "walking in off the street" thing, but then, later, because I start second-guessing my performance. Should I have gone "bigger"? I don't know these people -- are they just humoring me? I just thought of something I could've done for a monologue -- why couldn't I have thought of it then? A week previous, on Dinner For Five, I saw Jason Lee talk about auditioning, and how awful it is, and I think I felt a little superior. Clearly I had forgotten what it was like. Imagine smashing your ego on the floor and then kneeling down to pick up the pieces in front of everyone. That's auditioning. Even though I know the truth -- that it's grueling for the people on the other side, since they're terrified that they won't find the right people they need -- somehow, it's no consolation.
By Wednesday morning, I'd calmed down, and since it'd been four days and I hadn't heard anything, I figured I got passed over and that was that. Ready to go with life.
But then I check my email, and see that something came in late the previous night:
"We enjoyed watching you perform and would like to invite you back to play the part of the lab partner in the film “Douglas.” It is a fun part and we think you would fit it wonderfully."
I've been cast in a short film.
Small part? Big part? Don't know, and don't care. I'm gonna be in a movie!
Once again, thank you to the people at Frankenhuffer Productions -- Alisha, Ty, and... Matt? (Oh shit, I can't remember the other guy's name. Jackass X 5.) I can't wait to get started this August, and I hope that I can be an asset to your film.
I'm really looking forward to this. I haven't really tried to do anything creative outside of a comfort zone of collaborators I already know very well. I love my comfort zone with all my heart, but I've never really tested myself with a group of complete strangers. Can I hack it? I guess I'll find out. Wish me luck.
Huh. Not nearly as sucky as common sense would dictate, perhaps because there were low expectations on both sides of the cinematic divide, the creators and the audience. Populated by actors who are too good to be considered C-list and not popular enough to be A-list, directed by the son of one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, based on the work of a best selling author who isn't a household name, it's like everyone knew beforehand this thing would have an aura of crapitude from the get-go. So there's a sense of relaxation and freedom to the thing that's refreshing. (How many action movies would you expect to make stinging jokes about the Iraq National Museum and Bush's environmental record?) Seems like Raiders is the template -- and there are several shots that support that -- but as Gabriel noted at Cinemarati, it's more like a Hope/Crosby comedy disguised as action flick. (This is the kind of movie where bullets, generally speaking, don't hit people, no matter how many fired. Flare guns, yes, ancient cannons, yes, but not bullets.) Zahn's in good form, McConaughey isn't annoying, Macy smokes cigars bigger than Keira Knightley, but the real find here is Eisner. He's a natural with the camera, finding interesting compositions, bits of amusing business in the margins (my favorite: Two African guards, one chatting endlessly, the other completely bored, none of it subtitled English), and rediscovering the wide in widescreen (a lot of this won't work in P&S). Goes on a bit too long like these movies do, with one chase too many, but more satisfying than, say, National Treasure. Oh, pretty cool opening credits, too. Remember opening credits? Batman Begins and Cinderella Man don't.