Heath

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Homepage: http://www.heathallyn.com/


Posts by Heath

Free

Lending your talents
Payment comes in many forms
Some intangible

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

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

Is it fear or fate?
Is it the end of a dream?
Or a new chapter?

Crossroads

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.

Blackout

What the hell happened?
I can’t really remember
It’s a mystery

The Mystery of the Urinary Blackout

Had a weird possible fainting/blackout thing last night. Got up in the middle of the night to go pee, suddenly felt really bad. I thought that I quickly sat myself down on the floor but judging from the way I totally took out the toilet paper dispenser (broke the plastic roll, bent one side of the holder, and pushed the other side into the wall, and have no memory of this) I’m thinking maybe it was less voluntary than I thought. Next thing I remember is feeling totally disoriented and everything is pitch black. I felt my way around until I found the door and rushed back to bed in a cold sweat. Then I felt fine a few minutes later.

My right pinky toe hurts like I strained it (I think somewhere in the process I bent it back too far), I have scratches on my back and one of the little caps over the screws at the toilet base was knocked off. I think it was partially because I was right in the middle of a deep, deep phase of sleep and maybe I just got up too quick and had a blood pressure drop or something. I don’t really remember much. Can’t remember if I turned the light on (I thought I must have to see where to pee) but if I did, when did I turn it back off? Did I actually open my eyes and couldn’t see because it was dark or did I just not even open my eyes or did I just have a vision blackout as I was coming back around? How did I go down that injured my toe, took out the toilet paper dispenser and knocked the cap off the base of the toilet? It’s like some weird Sherlock Holmes mystery. Or an episode of House. Or Jekyll and Hyde. Or I’m a werewolf. Either way, kinda scary and definitely bizarre.

sk4

Where To Look For Me in Spy Kids 4

Spy Kids 4 opens this weekend and there are several places you may see me!

You will almost certainly see me towards the end grabbing Jeremy Piven by his right arm and dragging him off.
You will very likely see me in a laboratory trying to control a guy in an anti-gravity suit as spy kids get chased around me.
You may see me as an OSS Agent “frozen” in a hallway, pushing a cart and talking to a fellow female agent.
You will possibly see me selling ice cream way in the background of a park but I will be far away, tiny and probably out of focus.
And you will almost certainly see me but never know it’s me as one of two guys in silver Hazmat suits around a crater (probably with a fogged up visor).

sk4

Spy Kids 4

I might be in it
Depending on the edit
Watch closely for me

Maui, Day 6, The Last Day

I awoke at 2:30 A.M., successfully this time, to make the drive to the summit of Haleakala, the world’s tallest dormant volcano, to watch the sunrise. The drive up in the dark was slightly harrowing, as the road wound up the mountain and you knew that just off the side of the road was a plunge to certain death. Since it was still dark you couldn’t really see anything but my mind filled in the blanks. I was kind of afraid it would be more harrowing on the way down in the light.

When I got to the summit at 10,023 feet elevation, it was damn cold. I hadn’t brought a jacket to Maui so the best I could do was jeans, a tee shirt and a long sleeve shirt over my tee. Since it was still a while until sunrise, I rested in my car for a while. Then I went up to the highest observation point where most people were gathered. For a while I stayed inside the glass shelter to stay a bit warmer but as sunrise approached, I went to stand outside.

It was amazing. As it became light I could see that we were above the clouds. It was like a solid floor of clouds around us. I was chattering with cold but determined to experience this and I’m glad I did. One of the most stunning things I’ve ever seen. As the sun first breached the horizon, it first looked like a line was splitting open in the sky with a fiery orange glow like magma. I’m always shocked at how quickly sunrises and sunsets actually happen. It’s only a matter of minutes until it completely transitions from nothing to the full sun (or vice versa) as you can kind of see in this video. I also did a quick 360 degree video.

After enjoying it for a while, I started the journey back down the mountain. I was pleased to find it was less harrowing because in the light, it wasn’t quiet as scary of a drop off. It would still kill you, but visually, at least, it wasn’t as vertiginous. You could sort of see the slope of the mountain as opposed to just a sheer drop. I drove to Kahului, where the airport was, and decided to just spend the day there and stay in the vicinity. I had all day but was tired and just sort of in that “waiting to leave” mind space.

There’s not a lot in Kahului, but there is a Whole Foods! I waited for them to open and had a nice fruit smoothie. I then went and found several geocaches to keep me busy and exploring for the morning. One of them took me to a really nice spot on the beach so after I found it, I rolled down the windows and took a nap in my car to sounds of the ocean (and the kiteboarding instructors and students) and with a nice breeze blowing.

I returned to Whole Foods for some Sushi for lunch. Then it was on to more geocaching. In the afternoon, I found two particularly hard ones deep in some rough woods. I had to do a lot of “bushwhacking” as they call it when you are off the trail and going through rougher wooded areas. Up hills, through overgrowth, over fallen trees, by a homeless person’s tent in the woods, it was quite a rough terrain adventure. They were both tiny “microcaches”, basically tiny camouflage cylinders attached to trees. After the second one, I was thoroughly drenched in sweat, which was unfortunate as I wouldn’t have a chance to shower until I got home (which would turn out to be almost 24 hours later).

I decided to try and find a cafe or some place where I could recharge my nearly dead phone, and use my laptop for a bit but this turned out to be pretty futile, although I didn’t try incredibly hard. There was a Starbucks somewhere but there’s nothing there I want to drink. I ended up back at the same beach spot where I had napped earlier. When my phone died, I opened up my laptop on battery power and charged my from from that for a while. I spent several hours just walking barefoot in the sand, enjoying the view and the sound and watching kiteboarders. While I was indeed anxious to get home (more on that later) there was a surprising sense of sadness as well. Maui had really got to me. It was as wonderful and beautiful as everyone had said it would be. I’d seen and done so much, met so many great people and characters. Turning away from the ocean and walking back to my car was definitely accompanied by a sigh, like I was saying goodbye to a friend after a visit.

I decided to go ahead to the airport even though it was still 4 hours before my flight. I always would rather have too much time than not enough so I have plenty of time for any unforeseen circumstances as well as time to just take it casually, eat, relax, etc. I arrived at my gate and began the waiting game. A friend of mine works for an airline so I was traveling on his “companion” passses which meant my round trip was significant cheaper but I was flying standby, which means I only get on the plane if there’s room. I’d done this many times before so I knew the game and knew that you just had to go into it knowing that it could be quite the adventure. I’ve been stuck in Chicago for an entire day and overnight stay, stuck in Austin for 2 full days and nights and other adventures so I’d learned to be pretty zen about it. My trip to Maui had been flawless. Made both my flights! I was ecstatic when not only did I make my first flight home, but I was in first class for the 6+ hour flight! I ate my free, fancy, first class meal and then slept the entire flight to Denver.

When I got to my gate in Denver, I ate breakfast and headed to my gate where they have electronic boards at the gates telling you how many seats, how many people are checked in, people on standby, etc. My flight back to Austin was not looking good. I believe it showed one open seat and 3 people in front of me on the standby list. Sure enough, I didn’t get on it. The next flight was three hours away. I set up at the “charging station” and set up my laptop in one of the little cubicle-like spaces to pass the time. As my next flight got closer, I went to the gate and once again it looked even worse than the first flight. In fact, they were asking if any paid passengers would willingly give up their seat for a later flight, for which they would be compensated somehow (I can’t remember how). I did not get on. Another three hour wait.

I got some lunch and again set up in my airport cubicle. At this point, I was mostly keeping my zen but was a little frustrated since I had just started dating someone right before I left for Maui. We literally had our first kiss and then I’m gone for 6 days. I was anxious to get back.

As the next flight approached, I looked at the board to assess the situation. Three open seats and I was fifth on the standby list. I was hoping for a miracle. They started giving seats to the standby list. Two guys got their tickets and boarded. They called the next name. No response. Again, they called for this person, and no response. They then moved to the fourth name on the list. Again, no response. The gate agent said, “Well then, onto our next contestant” and sure enough it was me. I shouted “Woohoo!” and threw my arms in the air, happily took my ticket and boarded the plane.

Once again, I slept almost the whole 2 hour flight and arrived home only 6 hours later than I’d anticipated. On the plus side, this meant my girlfriend was not at work and could pick me up at the airport. We spent the next 26 hours utterly relaxing and disconnected from the world. Then I hit the ground running with things to do and am still playing catch up (thus why I’m only now finishing this blog entry).

Of course, I’d have it no other way. I hope to go back some day, but it’s also great to be home.

Pictures from the trip can be found here.

Journey’s End

Goodbye to beauty
Time to take the journey home
Hello to beauty