Sunday, April 3, 2011

Price of the American Dream II

I got back from Afghanistan and fully expected to rocket into super-stardom from my brief appearance in "Transformers". Expectations were running...high. A friend asked me, "What if you get cut from the film?", which made me excessively nervous until LtCol Paul Sinor, the military adviser on the project emailed me to let me know he had seen it and I was in there. A couple of lessons there. First, never have too much faith in a project's ability to "launch your career"...and if it's a dayplayer gig, it almost assuredly will not. Second, the smaller your role, the easier it is for them to eliminate your role entirely from the film...I've been fortunate so far.

I had some headshots done by my pal Rich Gill out in the deserts of White Sands and crafted up a resume with all of my theater work and classes from college as well as my ONE film credit for "Transformers". I had emailed agents and casting directors in the area while in Afghanistan with the clever title of "Hello from a New Mexico Actor in Afghanistan" and had high hopes that I had greased the right wheels (and I an extent).

No agents called. No casting directors called. I was doing nothing. I had even paid in and got my fancy SAG card. Nothing was happening.

Then I got a call from a less reputable casting source in ABQ. He said there was opportunity as an unpaid extra in Albuquerque (3.5 hours away) on a little indy film called "Price of the American Dream II". He said that if he could get me in with the director, he would love me and I could get a bigger part. I jumped at the chance. Coincidentally, this casting person's assistant on the project turned out to be Everett Scott Ortiz. He struck me as a good kid and months later when a role needed to be filmed on "Coyote County Loser", I remembered him and got him on the project. I love helping my fellow actors get work.

I drove up and worked in a theater scene where the lead character is showing a film that he made. I met director, Michael Amundsen, and he did seem to dig me. When he found out I was SAG he balked a bit, but I wasn't getting any work with my card and I cleared up that they would come after ME, bit him. We struck a deal.

Turns out they needed someone who could shoot a gun. Someone needed to put a bullet in a main character. I'm in the film for two scenes, looking tough in a Hawaian shirt in the background and then shooting poor Omar Paz Trujillo with a .45. My first work with blank firearms on set and I didn't speak a line. I even got a name, Harvey, in the credits, though I don't think anyone ever addresses me by it in the flick.

I had a blast. I was on set. I ALWAYS have fun filming, no matter how large or small the project or whether I'm an extra or a principal actor. Something is just intoxicating about the whole thing. It feels right. It's where I belong.

After adding this film to my resume, I got a call from The Phoenix Agency up in Albuquerque. They wanted to meet with me. It seems a bunch of the talent from the project had been recommended to the agency and they were basically picking up anyone who had worked on the project. I had my first agent!

Notice that my role in "Transformers" could not do for me what an unpaid performance in a low budget indy flick could. Take risks. Break the rules. Get where you need to be.

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