I had just got back from Afghanistan and was trying to do more in film. I had signed with The Phoenix Agency up in Albuquerque and at first had some serious misconceptions about what an agent does. Heck, I had serious misconceptions about everything to do with being a film actor. At least some of that is cured now.
One of my big misconceptions was that an Agent works for YOU. This really isn't 100% true. Your agent needs to book SOMEONE on a role...not YOU. Don't get me wrong, your agent can be incredibly helpful and wonderful to talk to and go out of their way to help you, but you can't rely on them to get you roles...only to help you find opportunities. The key thing an agent does for you is give you credibility and access to the breakdowns and big casting directors.
By credibility, I mean that simply being represented by an agent makes you look more professional. It helps you appear to be a real actor. I say appear, because there are some real losers out there who conned an agent into signing them and there are some agents who are crooked as all get out. Having one doesn't make you a professional...that comes from your behavior.
Having access to breakdowns is important as well. Usually films go through a CD for casting and that Casting Director doesn't muck around posting about roles on facebook or the imdb boards or some pay scam sight. They send the breakdowns out to qualified and trusted agents to get options. It saves them a boatload of time and helps ensure they limit the number of douchebags they bring in to protect their reputation as professional CDs.
So, the point of this is? Well, you rely on your agent to keep you in with the big productions, but you never stop looking for other opportunities. Always networking...always checking for postings about auditions. This doesn't mean to use pay sites that are usually scams (nowcasting and actorsaccess are decent) or imdb (I've never even made contact with an actual producer/director through those postings). A great source is through facebook or social network interface with directors you respect and checking out film commission websites.
It was while checking out the New Mexico Film Commission website (nmfilm.com) that I discovered there was going to be an open casting call for a romantic comedy called "Coyote County Loser" in Roswell (about 2 hours from where I live. Now, I usually drove 3 hours up and 3 hours back from Albuquerque for auditions, so 2 hours was actually nice. Plus, I didn't make the drive that much so it wasn't too boring.
I drove up to Roswell and arrived at the audition site. It was a broke down little theater that screamed "RUN AWAY!". I was really worried I had stumbled into a crappy project. However, I had driven 2 hours up so what was I going to do? I went in and was directed to the seating area in the theater. Auditions were being held back stage. There was a table with different sides on it. I was instructed to PICK a side. I hadn't had this happen before. I was used to being told "I want you to read for this". So, of course I grabbed the script for the lead, Jack. I looked it over and eventually my name was called.
I went back stage and was greeted by the director AND the producer. At a typical audition for a bigger budget project you'll meet with a CD first...usually not the director and unless the director and producer are the same person, NEVER the producer. Again, this one was odd, but it was indy film. On a lower budget film, it's actually hard to find a real casting director. You usually just read for the director. It saves a lot of money for the shoestring budget productions.
I read...and the director said "That's great...but could you read for the loser?". Some people might get sore at someone looking at them and thinking "loser", but I knew this meant they liked me. I was a happy camper. I grabbed the sides, looked them over and, I suppose knocked them dead. I left, not sure what to think, but hopeful as always.
A bit later, I got an email from the director. They wanted me, but nothing official yet. Then another email and finally a contract. This was really going to happen. I talked to the director, Jason Naumann, and we decided to meet for coffee up in Roswell. My daughter loved Roswell and all the alien stuff and Jason said to bring her along.
We met at Starbucks in Roswell and my then, 4-year-old daughter had a hot chocolate. She was bouncing around like a ping pong ball...and Jason was enamored with her. He was so great to talk to and such a nice guy. I knew this was going to be fun. He led me to the production office and I met some of the rest of the folks. A great bunch of people with a decent set-up. This might be promising after all.
I finally got a full script and loved it. My character was a simple backwoods guy who owned a junk yard. He was a sweet guy and a fun character and not the usual action hero role I was looking for. It was fun.
Now here is a lesson in first impressions and networking. After meeting with the producer more, Jacob Roebuck (another fantastic guy), he called me one day. As a local (he and Jason were out of LA) he needed my help finding a replacement actor for the film. It needed to be a guy who could pull of geek and charming and be rather young. I knew just the cat. I had met Everette Scott Ortiz while working on "Price of the American Dream II" up in ABQ. He was a nice kid, had all the qualities Jacob was looking for and a reel to back it up. He was eventually cast in the film. I met him ONE time and was able to get him a role on an indy SAG project and one of his first features.
Shooting was great. I got to work with the lovely and talented (and I just realized FELLOW MISSOURIAN) Nikki Boyer of "MIDNIGHT CLEAR"and film veterans Wayne Grace (X-Files, "MIDNIGHT CLEAR", Star Trek: Enterprise, Mulholland Dr and"LORD OF ILLUSIONS") and K Callan ("MIDNIGHT CLEAR", a host of great television shows and most memorable as Superman's mom on the show "Lois and Clark".).
My first day of shooting was great! Everyone was wonderfully nice. It was like a big family, and in many ways it was. Jacob's wife was from Roswell and her parents still lived there. They were both incredible people and had us into their home for dinner on multiple occasions. A few of the cast even lived with them for the duration of the shoot. Great folks! This is also the only film other than "Humans Vs. Zombies" where I have had my family visit the set. Jason impressed me to no end when he played catch with my daughter, Annabel, during breaks in filming and when, at dinner, he and Polly (Jacob's mother-in-law) broke into the AWANA theme song!
What also surprised me was the fact that the footage we were getting was really good. This was going to be something to be proud of. I still think it is, though it hasn't gotten the exposure it deserves. It's a sweet, clean romantic comedy that you can watch while your kids are roaming around the house. It has a great message about love and relationships and especially legacy couples (couples that have been together for years that act as role models for younger couples). It's about sacrifice, commitment, compromise and the true nature of love and it's wonderful.
This film also marks several other firsts for me. It was the first filming (and only so far) that I did in Los Angeles). It was the first (and so far only) feature film where I made the poster (a print hangs above my computer as I type this). It was my first Los Angeles (and so far only) Los Angeles premier. It's the first film that I've traveled around to different markets promoting. It was also that first film that I've been able to go back to my home town of Joplin, Missouri with and show off to all my friends and family.
My college, Missouri Southern State University, helped sponsor a showing at the Joplin movie theater and had me out for a dinner and to speak with the theater students. It was a wonderful day of meeting old friends, hanging out with my family and being treated like a real movie star. "Coyote County Loser" has meant a lot to me.
That said, you definitely need to see the film! Add it to your netflix queue (they haven't picked it up yet, but you can save it and help the cause). You can buy it on amazon (a link is below). It's definitely worth the watch, especially if you like romantic comedies...or seeing me take a bath in a horse trough.
YOU CAN ALSO GO LIKE COYOTE COUNTY LOSER ON IMDB
Here is the film's WEBSITE.