Archive for year 2012

The Beatles With Lightsabers

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I don’t know who originally came up with this, so apologies to the original artist but I wanted a higher resolution picture for myself so I photoshopped my own version.
Beatles with lightsabers

There are no failures, only experiences.

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In 2006 I was laid off from a job that I loved. Yet, surprisingly, I wasn’t really too upset. I just felt it was the opportunity to pursue what I really wanted to be doing. I got an agent, and for the next couple of years got some really lucky breaks and actually managed to make as much or more as I had been making at my job as a freelance actor, musician and general creative type along with other random bits of income. It helped that I was also married at the time so no matter what, there was always one steady paycheck.

I got divorced in 2009 and about a year later, as things were starting to get tight, a former co-worker called me out of the blue and I ended up with an awesome job working from home, making my own hours, and getting a decent, steady paycheck every two weeks. That project ended earlier this year.

Yesterday, it all finally hit me and I had a minor panic meltdown. I am effectively on empty monetarily while the bills continue to come. I realized that this was it. I had to get a job. Immediately. It’s very difficult to admit this as I have lived a dream life for the last 6 years. A very lucky, blessed life doing what I wanted to be doing in life and having a completely free lifestyle doing what I wanted when I wanted (for the most part). Having to say goodbye to that feels like a failure. Like going back in a prison. I know that it isn’t a failure. It’s a rousing success that I’ve lived such a wonderful life for 6 years. And I know that I’m still so incredibly lucky even now, in that I have some connections and possibilities with companies that I really want to work for if I have to have a “regular” job. I do still recognize my many, bountiful blessings and no that even in my darkest times, my life is probably still in the top 10% of awesome. I try to never lose sight of that.

Part of me thinks that maybe a day job is what I need because I am not driven enough on my own to make things happen. Maybe I would be making a living as a musician if I’d actually taken any kind of action to, you know, start playing solo around town or something. I am a huge dreamer and idea person but have very little follow through. I’m not nearly ambitious enough. I don’t work hard enough at making my own opportunities and really hustling. I seem to be someone who needs to work for someone else. There’s so much I could, should have to done to try and get any of my many ideas, films, and ventures off the ground, but the fact is, I haven’t.

However, I am genuinely trying to be at peace and just in alignment with the universe and know that this is my path. No matter what happens, it is my path. And it will lead wherever it is I am supposed to go. This doesn’t mean I don’t have to work and take action, but I have to believe that the dream isn’t over. Nothing is permanent, and while juggling all my desires, pursuits and needs is very difficult, life will always be what I make of it. I can choose to be happy and positive despite whatever circumstances I am in or choices I have to make, but damn that can be hard. I know that many of the “problems” on my mind right now are problems that so many would love to have! It’s almost metaphorically like “Oh no, I can’t possibly eat all the cake AND ice cream without getting sick so however will I choose?” Even in my dilemmas, I am lucky, and I know it. I already have a phone interview tomorrow. Sure I have dilemmas like “how am going to pay my bills this month when I have no money left?” but I also have dilemmas like “What if company A hires me but then company B wants to hire me later and I don’t want to be a prick and leave company A that just hired me even though maybe I really want to be with company B but then what if I go to company B and then there’s bunches of layoffs and it turns out I should have stayed with company A because they are more stable!”

I am basically kicking myself for not getting more of my freelance artistry going when I had the chance. For example, if I had tried to start teaching guitar and booking gigs a while back, maybe I would already have built enough momentum to get by now. However, if I start now, it’s not going to build quick enough to pay my bills and if I get a day job then I no longer have the time to give guitar lessons and such so I can’t build that momentum in that direction.

OK, so this has become much longer and more rambly than I intended. I’m not really sure what the point of it was. Basically that, yes, things get tough but in my heart I know how lucky I am and that while you can’t always see how this road is going to get you where you wanna go, it doesn’t mean it won’t. Think about it, you can never see the destination from the journey until you are close. If you set out to drive to another city, you can’t actually see the city for most of the journey. You just have to trust that the road will take you there.

Bacon-O’s! The Bacon Flavored Cereal!

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I was doing a play where we were considering having some fake commercial breaks, so I recorded this jingle that I imagined would appear during Saturday morning cartoons.

Bacon-Os

“Tonight You Belong To Me” From “The Jerk” for Ukulele

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I recently bought ukulele to add to my arsenal of instruments. I watched “The Jerk” again recently and the ukulele duet between Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters inspired me. For my first ukulele I decided to take a chance on a very unique instrument hand made by a Chinese maker on Ebay. I call it the “Bat-Uke” and I think you can see why.

As I set out to learn the song, I quickly realized it was going to be very challenging for an instrument that was totally unfamiliar to me. I started researching and watching youtube videos and reading ukulele forums. I very quickly found that there was not a single spot-on, correct version out there to my ears.

You can barely see the fretboard at all in the movie to see what Steve’s hands are doing but through my research I found out that it didn’t really matter, as even though Steve Martin is an incredible banjo player, he was miming the ukulele which was actually played by a jazz ukulele player named Lyle Ritz. I started painstakingly listening to every chord over and over for hours, picking out the individual notes in the chords. I played with all kinds of alternate tunings using my ears and what made for the most logical fingerings. After twice thinking that I had found the weird alternate tuning he was using, I eventually and finally came to the epiphany that I think he is just using standard tuning but tuned one and a half steps down. Maybe he used a concert or tenor sized ukulele (as opposed to the “standard” soprano).

I finally came up with something that worked and sounded pretty dead on to me. Of course, I’m sure many will disagree as is the nature of the beast.

So here’s my take! Tonight You Belong To Me

I feel very confident about most of it. A few of the chords are too hard to hear to know for sure but this sounded most accurate to me. Probably not perfect but I feel it’s about 95% and definitely much closer than anything else I’ve seen or found online.

Forgive any notation errors. I never notate music and just downloaded a program and also my music notation knowledge is way rusty! I didn’t notate the exact strumming pattern. I mostly just used quarter notes even though he sometimes throws in some swing eighth notes when he feels like it. I mostly just wanted to get the chords right.

Strange Change Exchange

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Vending machine 1 has the drink I want. Unfortunately it does not seem to be taking dollar bills. I concoct a wily plan. I go to vending machine 2 which is taking dollar bills but does not have the drink I want. I put in my dollar then press the change return button and I am given 4 quarters. Score!

I go back to #1. I insert a quarter. I hear a sound in the coin return slot. My quarter has been returned with several more. I insert a quarter again. This time it sticks. I insert a second quarter. It is returned to me along with my previous quarter and several more. Further attempts see my quarters just returned to me. I leave without a drink, but with a pocket full of quarters. The vending machine basically paid me to not have a drink and leave it alone.

Sense Memory

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While walking to get some breakfast this morning, I was just enjoying the gorgeous weather. The perfect temperature, the gentle breeze, the shining sun, the sounds all around me, the smells in the air. Then for some reason that I couldn’t quite get a hold of, it all triggered memories of my childhood, walking around my neighborhood, my home town, my elementary school. I remembered a book that I checked out from my elementary school library. A compilation of Science Fiction stories. I only have the vaguest memories of it now but I’ve always wanted to track it down and read it again. About the only memories that remain are vague recollections of some crystalline, large flea-like creatures on another planet and another story about a robot (that’s certainly no help).

I wondered if the school has records of what was in the library back then. It’s strange but wonderful how some magical combination of sensory input can suddenly transport you for reasons that aren’t quite clear. It’s a beautiful day. We only get a handful of these here in Austin! I’m going to enjoy this precious commodity!

Sherlock Themed Valentines Day Shenanigans

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A while back Paula stole my pajama bottoms. She later texted me saying she was holding them for ransom. We eventually agreed that I could have them back in exchange for “a valentine dates with original romantic content.” The game was afoot. (more…)

Why Working For “Free” Isn’t Always Working For “Free”

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Since I’ve had this discussion so many time with so many people, I thought it was about time I just wrote an entry here that I can refer back to in the future. As a freelance artist, I do a lot of work for “free”. You see it all the time: people soliciting talent but with no budget and promising experience, exposure, a good time, etc. I’ve seen more and more artist friends protesting against this and saying that we shouldn’t work for free and that we must value our own talents or no one will.

Now, let me first say that I absolutely do not disagree with these sentiments and I’m not here to argue against them. I just don’t think that it’s nearly so simple or black and white. As an actor, I’d say %95 of what I do, I do for “free”. Now I use that work in quotes because it’s misleading. I mean that I do not receive monetary compensation for it. I do however receive many benefits that I think are worth something and I think this can apply to many freelancers whether you’re an artist, web designer, photographer, writer, etc. I have been an actor/musician for most of my life and a professional (in some sense of the word) for 25+ years. For the last 6 years it has been a large part and sometimes a majority of my income. What do I get from “working for free”?

A) It’s like going to the gym. I get to practice my craft, keep my skills honed and my “acting muscles” in shape. I did over 40 projects in a 3 month period (only 1 of which ended up being not worth my time) and I could definitely feel the benefit. I remember specifically going in for a feature film audition and feeling like I was able to tap into some places much more easily because of some of the “free” projects I had recently done that allowed me to explore some places where I had less experience. I don’t see it as “working for free” as much as I see it as “training for free”. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for classes, I’m actually acting in real world projects. Now I’m not saying it’s necessarily a substitute for classes (especially for newer actors), but it’s still a form of free training. More of a companion to formal training.

2: I love what I do and I would always rather be working than not. The people I know who have decided that they weren’t working for less than X amount, tend to work a lot less than me. Now maybe they make the same amount of money as I do for less work. I don’t know but I want to work and be involved in as many projects as I can because it’s almost like the lottery, the more you play the more chances you have to win.

Γ- This business is definitely far more about opportunities and the people you know than strictly talent (which is sad, but true, I believe). I have made so many great friends and fostered professional relationships through these projects that never would have happened if I refused to work on free projects and you never know where those roads could lead. Some have indeed led to actual paid work that I would have never had access to otherwise. It has led to many people actually writing parts specifically for me. It has led to me being cast without even auditioning. I’ve been in some awesome films that went on to win awards at film festivals and such. All because of my working for “free”.

π} It can come back to you in all kinds of ways. Several years ago, my friend, Lars, and I set out to film some scene samples from a feature to try and get some funding. We had to actually produce a detailed budget to submit for grants and such. We filmed on the RED ONE, had a full crew and grip package, etc. By the budget, what we produced should have cost $15,000. It actually cost around $2000 because of all the talented, wonderful people we had met while working for “free” who believed in us, liked working with us and knew of our talents. These people wanted to be part of our project and donate their time and equipment largely because of all the “free” work we had done together. I know that if I finally get into a position to throw some money around, the first people I’m going to involve are those that I’ve worked with and love working with and who have lent me their talents in the past. Even at the point I am at now, I am always recommending my friends and throwing opportunities their way whenever I can.

As I said, I do think we need to value our talents, and I would certainly like to see more respect for actors. I’ve been on so many projects where the crew is being paid but the actors are not because so many people want to be actors and so many people think that the on camera jobs are the fun and glamorous jobs, but that’s another issue altogether.

There is no one correct path and you have to do what is right for you, but don’t be deceived. “Free” work can very much be worth it. Yes, I’d love to be making a living doing what I love but the important part, to me at least, is the “doing what I love” part. I believe the rest will come. And so far, I’ve been mostly right.

Now, anybody got any good jobs for me? 😉

Addendum 9/30/13:
I just started a pretty dreamy job making more money than I ever have, doing very cool creative things for a video game and feature film project with extremely flexible hours to pursue acting and auditions and such, and this job came about directly because of all the free work I’ve done with these folks.

Crossroads

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My last “day job” ended in June of 2006 when I was layed off from a local video game company. Since then I have been a full time musician and actor. I got some lucky breaks that helped pay the bills, and for 3 years I was also married and my spouse had a steady income (though through my lucky breaks I ended up making about as much as her, just more erratically). In 2010, things were starting to get a bit tight when a former colleague called out of the blue to ask if I wanted to work on a very small video game project that she was a producer on. I said I had to be flexible to pursue my acting and music and she told me I would be working on contract from home and could make my own hours. It was like winning the job lottery, to an extent.

Now, 2 years later, that project is coming to an end and I find myself thinking I may need another “day job”, at least for a while. So for the first time in almost 6 years I applied for a job. On the upside, it’s with Bioware, makers of “Star Wars: The Old Republic” which I find tremendously exciting. I’ve wanted to play it but my lack of time, and my now ancient dinosaur of a desktop computer have prevented me. So if I got the job then maybe I could actually play it in addition to working on it! However, there is a part of me that is a bit wary as well. I’ve grown quite accustomed to my totally free form lifestyle and the thought of another rigid office job is daunting. It could greatly affect my availability for my artistic pursuits, obviously. But it is a job that excites me and that I would enjoy.

When I told my friend, Brian, that I was applying, he asked me “does this mean the dream is over?”

Well, we shall see what happens. It’s only a contract job to start, anyway, so we’ll see if I get an interview and then if I get the job. I like to think that whatever happens, it”s just the beginning of a new dream, or a new chapter in the dream. Part of me feels like I’m giving in to fear. “Ah! I must have a steady paycheck!”, and that I should just soldier forward on my chosen path with faith that everything will work out as it always does. But another part of me feels that if all the stars align and I get this job then it is where I am supposed to go right now. The fact that they had several jobs in my field open was a surprise to begin with.

I’ve felt kind of stagnant anyway. Maybe I need a change. Something to shake things up. Life is always an adventure.

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BLAH!